A few years ago my mom gave us City Walks: New York, a deck of fifty cards, each outlining a different neighborhood. Chronicle Books, a San Francisco-based (and longtime favorite) publisher, has created decks for tons of cities. We used to pull out a card every once in a while and roam around a neighborhood for a few hours, but it had been a long time. New York is an expensive place, but there is actually a lot to do for free, and now that it’s all about doing more with less, taking a city walk is just about the most affordable way to spend a day in New York.
Last Saturday, we decided to check out Chelsea, even though we’ve both spent a lot of time there. It was a bright, sunny day, and this tour would take us along the water. The tour was to start on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, but train troubles made us start off on 34th street. (Train delays? On the weekends? In the summer? SHOCKER) No biggie, we got some gratuitous shots of the monumental James Farley Post Office.
Built in 1912 by McKim, Mead and White, the post office, which sits on eight acres, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been slated for reuse as an Amtrak station, and would be renamed Moynihan Station, after the late politician, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
As we mosied down 23rd, where we were met with the stately London Terrace apartment buildings (which my parents lived in at one time), one of which replaced the original “Millionaire’s Row.”
An original advertisement for London Terrace:
The tour took us along Ninth Avenue, where we passed the retro Empire Diner, which was jam packed full of brunch go-ers enjoying the outstanding weather. I like the sign above the restaurant, telling people what to do there:
Above the diner, we spotted another fine example of fire escapes in use as terraces, a favorite New York adaptation.
Speaking of fire escapes, they can be such eyesores, but these white ones are so chic:
The side streets (in this case, 21st and 22nd streets) are beautifully cared for by brownstone owners, who have restored their homes. We enjoyed the ironwork finials and gates on various stairs.
Oliver always has a soft spot for buildings covered in ivy – they’re so soft and plush:
Before we crossed the street to the Hudson River, we stopped to get a close look at the new Jean Nouvel building at 19th Street and 11th Avenue/West Side Highway. It is quite a site, with it’s unique facade, described in a New York Times article as “glittering” and “twinkling.”
Here, you can get a real sense for the varying colors in the windows
It is a stark contrast to Frank Gehry’s adjacent chubby-yet-billowy IAC building:
From afar, the glass windows of the IAC look frosted, but the windows are actually fritted with bands of white dots, a treatment to control and mitigate the flow of sunlight, which is intense in the afternoons, as the building faces West.
Our tour “officially” ended at the monstrosity that is Chelsea Piers, but we continued to roam around the various docks, and for the first time, saw the multi-tiered, year-round driving range:
Doesn’t it look curiously like New Orleans architecture?
Photo by Rick Murray
We continued winding in and out along the piers, spotting a massive Carnival cruise ship along the way.
I had planned to sit and have a drink at The Frying Pan, a former US CoastGuard Lightship-turned bar with pub fare, now docked at Pier 66. To my utter disappointment, this place was essentially a giant frat party on a boat (or as one yelper put it, “a frat party on steroids on a boat”). Not my jam, and pretty much Oliver’s worst nightmare. We walked in and promptly turned around. I’d like to try again sometime. Maybe earlier in the day, before all the undergrads awake from the previous night’s festivities.
Oliver spliced a couple of pictures together to create this panorama-der-D-baggery. Sorry for anyone we know who loves that place mid-weekend-day. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that we don’t fit into that scene.
We decided to skip the hubub and headed home to make our own little feast, complete with margaritas: