It is April and Julia is on second spring break. And we are in NYC.
First off, we’ve been here for 24 hours and Julia has said at least 5 times that she loves this place. Okay, we did have supper last night at the Chinese noodle shop she had picked out on line and we did find two goth/Japanese/anime clothes shops today, but it is noisy, confusing, busy and scruffy. All things that Julia usually doesn’t like. She might be picking up on my own happy feelings—ah, to be in NYC again.
One of my happy dreams when we moved to Boston was to be able to visit NYC for theater, museums and walking around often. Then Covid. This is our first trip here, although we did just pass through last June on our way to Maryland.
We are staying downtown—lower east side, close to Chinatown and the Manhattan Bridge. I found a city garage within which to leave the car for our days here, and we started walking. Today, we walked the East Village over to Washington Square Park, mostly looking for shops that Julia was interested in with a quick stop at the Kiehl’s flagship store. Walking around, I recognize so little of the city I left long ago and the city I visited for years. It has been a very long time, true, and so much is cleaned up and gentrified. Many new buildings and many gutted and spiffed up buildings. A good number of big holes with bulldozers and at least two church fronts that have buildings going up behind them. And although noisier and busier than we are used to, the city where we walked today feels emptier than it used to. I wonder how many closed shops are permanently closed. This is only Tuesday, could it be that shops and restaurants wait for the ends of weeks and weekends?
There is a lot of construction—so much scaffolding that I wonder where it all comes from!? There seem to be entire streets and buildings on every street decorated with scaffolding. Tonight’s dinner companions offered another explanation, see https://citylimits.org/2021/08/30/sorry-sightseers-that-nyc-landmark-may-be-covered-by-scaffolding/, which has my head spinning. Under Local Law 11, there are now 342 miles of what they call sidewalk shed in the city to protect pedestrians. I can’t help but imagine New Yorkers putting the miles of scaffolding to new uses—front porches which gardens is what comes to mind with jungle gym uses close behind.
Along Delancy, close to the Manhattan Bridge, where we are staying there are a number of glass towers and along the Bowery, there are very few of the very old 3-4 story buildings with dormers that I remember. Walking along the Bowery, I thought that everything had changed until we came upon the block or two of kitchen equipment stores. Mostly industrial, like they always have been—I bought both of my cast iron frying pans in those shops.
Oh, how everything is changed and everything is the same.
Chatting with the saleswoman at Kiehl’s, she asked where I was from after she found my name in their computer files. My name has been in some kind of their files since I started shopping there before Cheshire was born. I told her Boston and she opined that she would move to Boston in a minute if she had an offer. She lives in Brooklyn now and is looking for a change. I didn’t tell her that I’d trade places in a moment, although I’d like her East Village location over Brooklyn.
There is more green than there used to be and cherry/apple blossoms and spent daffodils. And miles of bikes for rent. There are an awful lot of streets with bike lanes. Almost no one was riding today—a few stalwart souls. It has been a cold day with a wind to knock you over! We could have used hats and gloves. I would have picked some up if we passed anything.
The downtown streets with their multitude of small restaurants are lined with little covered outdoor eating spots. I’ve read about these and seen pictures but the number of them did not impress me until we started walking around. Some are very much makeshift—like the one we ate in last night—and the strong wind of today might be somewhat of a threat to their durability. Some are sophisticated and built for a longer haul. On the smallest streets in Chinatown or the Lower East Side, these structures bring new challenges to walking the sidewalk and driving in the street. How long will they stay up? The longer they are up the more they become an institution impossible to get rid of. Then, there is regulation. There could be regulation. I am almost sure there is no regulation so far—at least, not by the look of things.