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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Urban Gadabout: On (and alongside) the waterfront

The Tribeca section of Hudson River Park: Hudson River Park -- which I just toured from the river as my City of Water Day trip -- is the subject of multiple walking tours by two of the Municipal Art Society's heavy hitters, Francis Morrone and Matt Postal.

by Ken

[Last night, writing about my City of Water Day river cruise along New York City's ever-developing Hudson River Park, I promised a rundown of some of the remaining summer tour activities focused on the New York-New Jersey waterfront. Here goes!]

Today I did the first tour in a series of walks the Municipal Art Society's Francis Morrone is devoting to "Walking the New Waterfront": "The New East River Waterfront." I didn't rush to mention it since I knew it was sold out. The MAS summer schedule includes the next two installments in Francis's waterfront series. (Some editorial help would have been in order to clarify that the August 18 walk is Part 2 of his waterfront series and Part 1 of a subseries devoted to Hudson River Park.) Francis mentioned today that there will be more installments in the next MAS schedule announcement, and also announced -- when he was pointing to Governors Island from a stop at the East River's Pier 11 that there will be a Governors Island tour in his waterfront series.

Francis, who has a book in the works on the subject, is fascinated by the revolution in landscape architecture on display in much of this new waterfront development, which he considers at the vanguard of such activity anywhere in the world.
Walking the New Waterfront: Hudson River Park, Part 1
Saturday, August 18, 2pm-4pm

The second in our series on the dramatically changing Manhattan waterfront with architectural historian Francis Morrone takes us to the West Side, where we will begin a series of walks up the Hudson shoreline as far as Riverside Park. The first of these walks begins in the northernmost reach of Battery Park City and moves north through the TriBeCa and Greenwich Village sections of Hudson River Park to at least Pier 45.

Walking the New Waterfront, Part 3: Brooklyn Bridge Park
Saturday, August 25, 2pm-4pm

Our third walk with architectural historian and author Francis Morrone exploring new waterfronts takes us to Brooklyn, where the ambitious Brooklyn Bridge Park is rapidly taking shape among the disused piers and other spaces between the Manhattan Bridge and Atlantic Avenue. Designed by the renowned firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates, this is the most talked-about recent urban landscape project in the country, after the High Line.

I should point out that this summer Francis has done the first parts of a pair of three-part series in Brooklyn:
* one devoted to Boerum Hill, which will continue with the bordering neighborhoods with which it's often linked, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens

* one devoted to Ditmas Park, one of three neighborhoods in "Victorian" Flatbush which contains a historic district -- still to come are walks in the others, Prospect Park South and Midwood


As I've pointed out a number of times, Francis can be very funny, and he usually doesn't telegraph his jokes. He also noted out that he and Matt did their first MAS tours in the very same week, and are the same age, so I guess it's a sort of MAS Hudson River Park throwdown. Matt has two Hudson River Park walks on the summer schedule:
Down by the River: Greenwich Village and Gansevoort
Saturday, July 21, 11am-1pm

Join Matt Postal, architectural historian and author, to visit the first section of Hudson River Park. Since they first debuted in 1999, the quiet blocks where Greenwich Village meets the Hudson River have attracted increasing attention. This walking tour examines how the decline of waterfront commerce in the 1960s set the stage for recent developments, viewing several early residential projects and conversions, such as the West Village houses and Westbeth, as well as a number of stylish new apartment buildings designed by Asymptote, Julian Schnabel, and FLAnk. We'll conclude in the Gansevoort Market Historic District, where the High Line starts and the future home of the Whitney Museum of American Art by Renzo Piano is now under construction.

Down by the River: West Chelsea and Hudson Yards
Sunday, August 12, 11am-1pm

This tour with Matt Postal, architectural historian and author, focuses on the once-gritty West 20s, where former freight facilities are being converted into luxury housing, public parkland, and commercial space. We'll discuss the present progress of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, the next stage of the High Line, major historic structures in the West Chelsea Historic District, and visit Chelsea Cove, a particularly lovely section of Hudson River Park that includes gardens by Lyden B. Miller and a restored railroad float transfer bridge.

(I don't play favorites here. Yesterday I did Matt's "New to New York: Broadway's Cultural Corridor" tour, and today I did Francis's inaugural waterfront tour on the lower East River, and I'm registered for both of Francis's and both of Matt's upcoming waterfront tours.)


Joe has a long history with Coney Island, and this summer once again is doing a walk there.
Saturday, August 11, 10:30am-12:30pm
Coney Island: What's Next?

Join preservationist and lifelong Brooklyn resident Joe Svehlak for a summer favorite as we explore America's first great seaside resort. We'll look for remnants of Coney Island's "honky-tonk" past, when as many as a million people would visit "Sodom by the Sea" on a hot summer day. Have a Nathan's Famous, view the popular ballpark, the new amusements, the historic rides, and enjoy the boardwalk as we discuss the struggle to designate landmarks and the future of the fabled resort. Wear your bathing suit if you want to go for a swim with Joe after the tour!

Actually the tour of Joe's I'm really looking forward to is the next in his series of neighborhood walks, pushing farther along the Terminal Moraine that separates Brooklyn and Queens from Bushwick (which unfortunately I wasn't able to do; I sure hope he does it again!) to Ridgewood and now to Cypress Hills (see below), and also Sunset Park (where he grew up, and also very much part of the Terminal Moraine story, since it sits atop and along the shoreward side of the all-Brooklyn section of the ridge) and Boerum Hill.

Joe has been doing a bang-up job of showing us -- not just telling but showing -- how each area came to be settled, and by whom, and how those original settlers either stayed on or (so often) moved on, and who replaced them and why, and accordingly how the neighborhoods have evolved.
Brooklyn Down East: Cypress Hills/Highland Park
Sunday, August 19, 10:30am-12:30pm

Join preservationist and lifelong Brooklyn resident, Joe Svehlak, in this area east of Bushwick on the Queens border known as the Eastern District home to some lovely and varied architecture. Fine civic buildings, grand mansions, interesting row houses, and even a church by Richard Upjohn are to be found here. The varied hilly topography due to the terminal moraine from the Ice Age, makes for a fascinating walk up and down the streets. At the beginning of the tour we will make a short visit to the Evergreens Cemetery, one of the city's first garden cemeteries (1849), whose park-like setting is the final resting places of some of Bushwick's finest citizens.


Of course there are now kajillions of cruises on the harbor these days -- morning cruises, afternoon cruises, evening cruises; dinner cruises, cheese-tasting cruises, hideous-entertainment cruises; etc. etc. etc. But most of them tend to focus on the narrowish band of water that can be comfortably covered in an hour or two from the lower Hudson to the lower East River, naturally including the Statue of Liberty. Now, however, there are all sorts of other harbor tours, and I've just begun to discover them myself.

I should probably have called more attention to this year's schedule of those wonderful "Hidden Harbor" tours the Working Harbor Committee does aboard the yacht Zephyr in conjunction with New York Water Taxi (Circle Line Downtown), and have neglected them only because I did all three last year. However, it's still possible to do all three. They're all two hours, and scheduled for Tuesday evenings, departing from Pier 16 at South Street Seaport, with sailings scheduled for 6:15pm in July and August, 5:30pm in September. Each tour normally features a harbor veteran as running commentator plus a guest speaker with a particular interest in the particular subject.
* Newark Bay, the one I really got worked up over last year ("Newark Bay or bust! (Is there anyone else whose pulse is sent racing by the prospect?)"), which has three more outings -- on July 24, Tuesday, August 21, and September 18

* North River (i.e., the Hudson River, the river that came from the north), on August 7

* Brooklyn (a view from the river of Brooklyn's western shore from the Queens border at Newtown Creek on the north all the way down to the Sunset Park waterfront), on September 4

Working Harbor also schedules all manner of other special waterfront events -- for example, a three-hour "intensive" tour of Newtown Creek with Newtown Creek Association historian Mitch Waxman ("Walking Dutch Kills with Mitch Waxman, 'Your Guide to a Tour of Decay'") on Sunday, July 22, 11am-2pm (which I can't do, because that's the day I'll be heading to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park on a New York Transit Museum tour). Definitely keep an eye on the WHC website and blog, and get yourself on their e-mail list.

I did, however, tell you about Working Harbor's new-this-year walking tours, both of which still have upcoming dates:
* Lower Manhattan, led by Captain Maggie Flanagan, on Saturdays, July 21 and August 11, 1pm-3pm, ending up at the South Street Seaport Museum

* Staten Island (from the St. George Ferry Terminal to Sailors' Snug Harbor, spotlighting the Kill van Kull separating Staten Island from Bayonne, New Jersey), led by none other than Mitch Waxman, on Saturdays, July 28 and October 13, 11am-1pm, ending up at one of my favorite places, the Noble Maritime Collection in Snug Harbor

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Urban Gadabout: Out on the water on City of Water Day

"Come see the sights," said he.
"New York in lights," said he.
Said I, "It might be amusing."
Next thing I knew we were cruising
on the SS Bernard Cohn.

Chilly and shivery,
out on the river, we
found us a corner to chat in,
as we were circling Manhattan,
on the SS Bernard Cohn. . . .

Barbara Harris, plus Barbara Monte, William Reilly, and Gerald M. Teijelo, vocals; Theodore Saidenberg, musical dir. From RCA's 1965 Original Broadway Cast Recording of Alan J. Lerner and Burton Lane's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

by Ken

Okay, it wasn't the SS Bernard Cohn, and the city wasn't in lights this afternoon, and we weren't circling Manhattan, but still . . . . (It was kind of overcast, if that counts. That made it maybe a little less hot than it might otherwise have been, but not exactly "chilly and shivery.")

Today was New York's annual City of Water Day, presented by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a celebration all over the area of the city's roughly zillion miles of waterfront. (Oh, I could look up the number, but would that improve any of our lives?)
City of Water Day is the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s way to bring together everything about the water that is exciting and fun, from port commerce to environmental education to active recreation. The event is a celebration of the potential of the waterfront.

MWA works to transform the New York and New Jersey Harbor and Waterways to make them cleaner and more accessible, a vibrant place to play, learn and work with great parks, great jobs and great transportation for all.

Through our work, the New York and New Jersey harbor and waterways will be alive with commerce and recreation; where sailboats, kayaks and pleasure craft share the waterways with commuter ferries, barges and container ships; where beautiful, cared-for parks are connected by affordable waterborne transit; where there are dozens of exciting waterfront destinations that reflect the vitality and diversity of the great metropolis that surrounds it; a waterfront that is no longer walled off by highways and rails, or by private luxury residences; a waterfront that is a shared precious resource and is accessible to all. MWA is a leadership organization that will make this vision real for our region.

Over 650 organizations that make up the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance can participate and play a major role in putting on City of Water Day.

When the schedule of events was finally announced, for most people it represented an embarrassment of riches. It was a little dicier for me, since by then I had registered for Matt Postal's Municipal Art Society walking tour "New to New York: Broadway's Cultural Corridor" at 11am, so I needed an event that I could get to in time from the Upper West Side starting somewhere between 1:15 and 1:30. To my relief and delight, I actually found one: the second sailing of the day of a river-eye tour of Hudson River Park, the still-developing park that consists of the immediate shoreline plus an ever-growing number of repurposed or rebuilt Hudson River piers over the five-mile span from Tribeca up to about 59th Street. (North of 59th Street Riverside Park begins its river journey.) The tour was narrated by Nicolette Witcher, vice president for environment and education at the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversees the development and maintenance of the park.

The lovely celebration of City of Water Day provides a striking reminder of the growing role our waterfront has come to play in the lives of more and more New Yorkers. Of course, once upon a time it played an essential, if barely visible, role in the lives not just of New Yorkers but of much the country, when it was one of our leading industrial plants, and city dwellers. While it's still very much a working waterfront, it's nowhere near the not-fit-for-human-habitation miasma it once was.

This week's Time Out New York has a useful little roundup of upcoming waterfront-themed tours on MAS's summer schedule, and if I could find an online link on the magazine's next-to-useless website, I would offer it. In any case, tomorrow I'm going to do a roundup of my own, including a number of other offerings in addition to MAS's.

Friday, July 13, 2012

No News From Mali Is Good News These Days-- Letter From Mopti

Roland finally found a couple of Bozo ladies to pose for a photo

The thing I liked most about visiting Mopti, Mali's second largest city, wasn't actually in Mopti but nearby. Mopti is a stereotypical seedy African river port. Just outside of it-- as though in another world entirely-- are Bozo fishing encampments which couldn't have possibly been any more primitive a thousand years ago. We rented a boat and went up river 'til we came to an island with some thatch-roofed huts, a Bozo village. Roland and I walked around for an hour, taking photos, poking around. No one paid us any attention whatsoever. Nothing-- neither positive nor negative... nothing.

In town we stayed at the most beautiful hotel in Mali, French architect Amédé Mulin's boutique establishment La Maison Rouge. I've been wondering how the small hotels have been faring now that the country is engulfed in civil war. I know they're all shut down and destroyed in Timbuktu, who has been taken over by slavers and religious fanatics but things in Mopti are just bad, instead of horrendous. The hotel is closed but the most recent letter I got from Amédé is mildly optimistic. He's been in France but he was just back to Mopti for a visit. I'll share a few paragraphs:
I have found that the hotel was generally OK, though degraded by lack of maintenance of the building and the first rains. 6 employees were still in office. The cook resigned during my absence, the mason and his maneuver worked in general maintenance during the month of April and ceased operation in May and June Power cuts, although nearly constant, have not damaged the stock of freezers. The plant has recently commissioned two new groups, the power cuts have almost ceased. Banks are always closed and government in part.

The team is demoralized by the closure of the hotel, the gloom in the city, lack of opportunities and stagnation of the political and security situation in Mali, a certain feeling of abandonment. Some began to develop other activities, such as the cook who has returned from Burkina Faso, or the wizard ruler who would also resign.

We met a few days ago to review the call for support. Staff hoped to reopen the hotel, after listing the charges of the hotel operation estimated at over € 1,500, given the lack of cash and revenue prospects, given the attendance of other catastrophic hotels remained open to Mopti and Sévaré, we agreed that it was reasonable to remain temporarily closed.

The staff, however, has pledged to work towards a quick reopening if special request rental, important booking or processing in offices or rented house in a project... [I]t is unlikely that we have reservation requests. The hotel will remain closed unless major reservations. We hope the situation will evolve positively, particularly in terms of security, so that projects and humanitarian actors can work in good conditions and create economic activity.

It is always possible that the board of the UN Security eventually bow to the many requests for a military intervention that would transform de facto humanitarian hub in Mopti, recreating a certain dynamism to the hotel sector, waiting for the Mali again become a tourist destination.

I don't imagine tourists-- at least not American ones-- will be returning to Mopti (or anywhere in Mali) any time soon. There were very few Americans when Roland and I were there a couple years ago but between the kidnappings and violence and the destruction of everything of historical value (other than in Dogan country down south), the country is being completely avoided by international tourists. There was a decent analysis of the situation at this week. It looks like the split between the Tuaregs and the al Qaeda faction has widened... into chasm. I always find it bizarre that no one ever brings up that the Tuaregs capture people and enslave them. I guess that's considered to barbaric to even mention.
'Islamist rebels' have been blamed for a campaign of plunder in Timbuktu this week, but who exactly are they and what do they want?

As momentum builds outside Mali to launch some kind of military intervention into rebel-held territory, the conflict in northern Mali has grown increasingly complex in recent weeks. Even as reports of rampaging Islamists in Timbuktu proliferate our news bulletins, however, the complexity of the conflict has been steadily ignored.

It has been several months since rebel groups wrested control of Northern Mali from government forces. One group, a Tuareg tribal militia known as MLNA, was armed by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and fought for him during in the Libyan war last year. When Gaddafi fell, the MLNA raised guns for their old cause-- a state of their own. They are ethnic nationalists, embittered against colonialism. And as the MNLA gathered their forces, they formed an alliance with other militias in Northern Mali, all of them rebels with separate causes-- but, crucially, a common enemy.

One of these groups, Ansar Eddine (Arabic for helpers of the faith), has been described by commentators as the Taliban of the Sahel. This is the group currently in control of the town of Timbuktu, a city that once was the hub of cultural and intellectual pursuits in Africa.

The MNLA captured Timbuktu without a fight after the Malian army abandoned the city. A day later, however, Ansar Eddine drove out the MNLA, and has held the city ever since. Andrew Lebovich, a Washington DC-based researcher on the Sahel, says that although Ansar Eddine was formed late last year, its leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, has long been a power broker in northern Mali. Analysts say Ag Ghali's importance as a leader lies more in his kinship and tribal roles in northern Mali than in his new-found role as the leader of a so-called Islamist faction. Ag Gali has repeatedly fallen out with the MNLA, who accuse him of humiliating them.

The MNLA, then, was drawn into conflict with Ag Ghali. Crucially, though - and unlike the MNLA - Ansar Eddine's Islamist credentials have increasingly been linked to the Al-Qaeda branch in west Africa (AQIM)."Reports indicate that Ag Ghali has grown more religious in recent years, but initially Ansar Eddine appeared no different to the MNLA," Lebovich tells Daily Maverick.

Other analysts say Ag Ghali has emerged as a committed Salafist in recent years, and declared his intention to put all Mali under Sharia law-- angering the MNLA, who disagree with his interpretation of what the identity of the new Malian state should be. Negotiations between the two factions have been futile. What is becoming clear is that Ansar Eddine does have stronger links with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb than previously suspected. "There is a general belief that much of the support lent to Ansar Eddine came from AQIM," Lebovich says, noting that this includes weapons, money and ideological support. There is, however, very little credible information on the exact nature of the influence of AQIM on Ansar Eddine.

Ag Ghali's embrace of the Salafi brand of Islam is significant to understanding Ansar Eddine's rampage on the heritage of Timbuktu in the last week. Salafists believe that any innovation from the original version of Islam, as practised in the Arabian Peninsula in the time of Mohammad, is akin to polytheism-- blasphemy. Now that Ansar Eddine has firm control over Timbuktu, they've started to purge the city of its religious relics and destroy historic cultural sites deemed blasphemous.

Great mosques and mausoleums to local saints-- of unique architectural design-- were erected in the 15th and 16th century, and the city is home to a long tradition of a local Sufism, which is an Islamic mystic tradition.

It's little wonder, then, that this campaign has been compared to the Taliban's 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

As international condemnation of the destruction of United Nations world heritage sites in Timbuktu grows, so, too, do the calls for international intervention in northern Mali. Lebovich, however, is sceptical of the prospects of international intervention taking place, let alone succeeding. "Everyone knows that international intervention will be very difficult. This is one of the harshest climates in the world, infrastructure is poor, international interventional may not be favourably received in Mali and then it's not clear what these groups actually want," he explains.

Attempts by regional body ECOWAS to negotiate with rebels in northern Mali have yielded nothing so far. As one negotiator put it, "We're in talks at the moment, but obviously they're not going well because we want different things." Rebels with separate causes defeated a common enemy, but now it remains to be seen which cause will trump the other.

The rebel insurgency in northern Mali began as yet another expedition in the life and times of the Tuareg people to win sympathy from the world.

But while the MNLA will win some sympathy for being victims of Ansar Eddine, in the end, the prospect of broad international support for a Tuareg state is now in tatters, much like Timbuktu.

The two factions are now fighting for real and the al Qaeda Islamists have driven the Tuaregs out of Gao, the other big prize after Timbuktu. The third "city," Kidal, is also under their sway. The Tuaregs are out in the cold.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Urban Gadabout: Two more evening walks in Western Queens; a great ballpark and some lousy ice cream; and a date for "A Day on the J"

Maybe there's a ballpark somewhere that can compare with Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees (of the Penn-New York League), with its vista of Lower New York Harbor, but I haven't seen it. In the distance over the right-center-field fence is the Jersey City skyline.

by Ken

There's a whole lot of gadding about to get caught up on, especially coming off a five-event weekend, spread over two days with a combined temperature upwards of 200 degrees. (Of course it felt like 300.) But because we have breaking news, I'm going to reserve comment on the three Municipal Art Society tours, all in Brooklyn (separate walks in the really unrelated neighborhoods of Bedford and Stuyvesant led by Suzanne Spellen and Morgan Munsey, and Francis Morrone's saunter through Ditmas Park, one of Flatbush's three neighborhoods with a landmarked historic districts), not to mention the transit logistics that got me to all five (on time!), and limit myself to observations from each day's purely recreational final destination.


(1) Based on my first-ever Staten Island Yankees (of the "Short-Season A" Penn-New York League) home game Saturday night (against the Williamsport Woodcutters), I can report that I've never encountered either a more atmospheric walk to a ballpark than the short jaunt along Staten Island's north shore from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, or a more atmospheric place to watch a ball game. My gosh, you're trying to concentrate on the game, with the up-close feeling you only get in minor-league parks, and there, beyond the fence in right-center field, amid all the other bustle out on Lower New York Harbor, is a giant container ship majestically making its way from Kill Van Kull (and the container ports in Newark Bay) toward the Verrazzano Narrows leading into the Upper Harbor and on to the open Atlantic Ocean.

(2) Wouldn't you think that an Ice Cream Takedown featuring samples of 30 flavors of ice cream would be as close as Life As We Know offers us to a slam-dunk guarantee of psychic and gustatory yumminess? At the event on Sunday at Brooklyn's Bell House, I decided that, while $18.88 was an outlandish price to pay for 30 teaspoons of crap, it wasn't an unreasonable price for the startling lesson that ice cream, even mediocre ice cream, may be the only substance on earth that guarantees a smile. I know I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't experienced it myself. (In fairness, it wouldn't have been such a gustatory horror show if a reasonable number of the contenders -- oh yes, there was both fan and "expert" judging! -- had risen to the level of "mediocre.")


The news comes via an e-mail that Sunday Classics' esteemed "urban geographer" Jack Eichenbaum (who's also the Queens borough historian) just sent out to his e-mail list. The new information doesn't appear yet on the "Public Tour Schedule" page of Jack's website, but that's the place to sign up for the e-mail list.

Coming up tomorrow, as previously announced is the last of the three originally announced Wednesday-evening walks in Western Queens. (Jack notes: "Meeting points are 10-20 minutes from midtown Manhattan and all tours end in food-rich neighborhoods with suggestions for inexpensive dinners.") Tomorrow:'s walk is Long Island City to Old Astoria. In addition, Jack has been encouraged enough by the response to the first two walks in the series that he has scheduled a fourth for Wednesday, July 25: #7 Sunnyside to Jackson Heights (Ethnic Route).
Long Island City to Old Astoria (THIS WEEK!)
Wednesday, July 11, 6-8pm

Walk the East River shore between the Queensboro and RFK (Triboro) Bridges. Begin at Queensbridge Houses and head for the remnants of Old Astoria. The sights include increasing oblique views of Manhattan’s Upper East Side from three parks, a (former) piano factory, a huge power plant, a “big box” store, the Socrates Sculpture Park, the Isamu Noguchi Museum and ante-bellum mansions. Ends in Astoria at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden (Czech food) with Greek and other cuisine nearby.

This tour is self-sponsored. Fee $15. Meets at the NW corner of 21 St and 41 Ave. (F Queensbridge). No reservations necessary.

#7 Sunnyside to Jackson Heights (Ethnic Route)
Wednesday, July 25, 6-8pm

The core of the ethnic diversity under the “The International Express” has visible commercial concentrations of Irish, Mexican, South American, South Asian, Filipino, and Thai cultures. Some domestic gentrification has occurred at both termini. The train and the constantly evolving eats are always in focus.

This tour is self-sponsored. Fee $15. Meets under the Sunnyside arch, south side of the elevated 46 St/Bliss station (local #7). No reservations necessary.


We started with Astoria -- or more specifically, as Jack explained, "new" Astoria, not to be confused with the older part, which we'll be visiting tomorrow evening. And then, on a punishingly hot July evening, came one of the really great walking tours I've ever done, one that targeted three neighborhoods -- Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights -- that are adjacent but developed in almost entirely different ways for reasons that start with basic geography, Sunnyside being almost entirely lowland, meaning originally marshland unsuitable for real-estate development; Woodside being a mix of some higher ground and lowland, and Jackson Heights being mostly the high ground coveted by developers to house the rich. Once sewers were installed even the lowlands became developable (though a hefty chunk of Sunnyside had already been given over for a prime lowland use: railroads, specifically the yards and western end of the Long Island Rail Road).

There has been fascinating, historically important, innovative residential development in all three neighborhoods, and Jack showed us and explained lots of that. But more important, with his choice of sites and the sort of "back-door" route he charted, he "gave" us three wildly different contiguous neighborhoods, not only enabling us to get a feeling for the basic character of each but allowing us to actually experience the basic rise in elevation as we advanced toward Jackson Heights. This is Jack at his best, which is seriously special.


I've made a big deal here of Jack's day-long World of the #7 Train tour, which I did in spring 2011 and was powerfully tempted to do again in the spring 2012 edition. I can't find a link, but I could swear I'd already mentioned that Jack was talking about scheduling another subway-line tour he has done in the past, along the J train, which follows "the colonial route beteween Brooklyn and Queens." In any case, Jack has now made it official: A Day on the J, which he reports he hasn't done in eight years, is scheduled for October 21! Jack will e-mail you a great information sheet on request; it includes a registration coupon, but you can register without it by mailing him the information specified in the description below -- along with your check, of course

Like The World of the #7 Train, A Day on the J is organized in the form of six walks in dramatically different areas, reflecting widly different geography and development histories, spanning the three boroughs through whichf the J runs: Highland Park, Richmond Hill, and downtown Jamaica in Queens; Bushwick and South Williamsburg in Brooklyn; and the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The walks are linked, of course, by rides on the J train itself (unlimited-ride Metrocard highly recommended). As with the #7 tour, A Day on the J has a lunch break built in, in this case in Jamaica.

I think it's safe to say that, except to people who live or work along the J route, this train is a lot less familiar to most New Yorkers (and visitors) than the #7 train cutting through Queens to Flushing.
A Day on the J
Sunday, October 21, 10am-5:30pm

This series of six walks and connecting rides is astride the colonial route between Brooklyn and Queens. We focus on what the J train has done to and for surrounding neighborhoods since it began service (in part) in 1888. Walks take place in Highland Park, Richmond Hill, downtown Jamaica, Bushwick, South Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side. Tour fee is $39 and you need to preregister by check to Jack Eichenbaum, 36-20 Bowne St. #6C, Flushing, NY 11354 (include name, phone and email address) The full day’s program, registration coupon and other info is available by email: The tour is limited to 25 people. Don’t get left out!

Take the J Train: Jack Eichenbaum's Oct. 21 Day on the J will feature walks in Queens (Highland Park, Richmond Hill, and downtown Jamaica), Brooklyn (Bushwick and South Williamsburg), and Manhattan (Lower East Side), plus lunch in Jamaica and of course lots of trips on the J.