Archive for January 2008

Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 1

January 21, 2008

The single most dominant feature of Alphabet City has to be Tompkins Square Park.  It is most definitely a park with a past.  Back in the 80’s, it was filled with the homeless and was a major drug market.  In 1988, a riot erupted and served as a rallying point for a lot of the politics of the day and echos of it still seem to be present.

It’s located between Avenue A and Avenue C.  Here’s where I ran into it, coming from St. Mark’s Place.


In a word, the park is…unremarkable.  It’s moderate sized and it has some wonderful elm trees scattered throughout it.


Another thing it has a lot of are fences.  Lots and lots of fences.  Maybe it’s something arising from Tompkins’ history as a rallying point of protests and the like (fencing makes it harder for very large groups to act in concert) or maybe it’s protection for the trees and grasses (the population density in the area is very high).  Whatever.  For the most part, if you’re in Tompkins Square Park, you’re not gonna be walking on the grass very much.

A little after entering the park, I saw a sculpture that I had to check out.  It’s the Temperance Fountain.


That’s “temperance” as in no alcohol.  The fountain was a gift from a man by the name of Henry D. Cogswell and was given to provide an alternative beverage (cold water) to the Lower East Side during the late 1800s.  Cogswell had made his fortune in the California Gold Rush of 1849 and spent a lot of his money in support of the Temperance Movement.

The figure on the top is Hebe – the water carrier, at least according to a nearby sign.  But that’s rather odd.  The Greek mythological character of Hebe was a cupbearer who served nectar and ambrosia to the Greek gods; and we know what a bunch of rowdy debauchers those guys were.  Another way of saying it:  they weren’t temperant in the least.


Alphabet City in the Lower East Side

January 20, 2008

I’ve heard about Alphabet City for a long time.  It’s just one of those neighborhoods that come up in conversation.  It’s named for four avenues with the shortest names in NYC:  Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C, and Avenue D.  (Usually, you see them named as Ave A, Ave B, Ave C, and Ave D.)  I took a tour of the East Village/Lower East Side that the tour guide said something along these lines:

“Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s; Alphabet City streets were said to stand for the following:  if you went to Avenue A, you were adventurous.  If you went to Avenue B, you were bold.  If you went to Avenue C, you were crazy.  And if you went to Avenue D, you were dead.”

Wild overstatement, but those were tough times for the Lower East Side and the poverty and crime in the area were legendary.

And now?  Well, I’ve been through all four avenues and even a bit beyond.  I found some parts still poverty-looking, but other areas looking very, very cool.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting on the area and some of the things that I saw.  I didn’t see any crime.  I didn’t see anything other than a fascinating, but at times still poor, area of Manhattan that I think is an area that I’m going to see a lot more of; but not when the temperatures have been as cold as they are right now.

Alphabet City itself is located in the east side of Manhattan from roughly Houston Street in the south (think of it as just below 1st Street) up to 14th Street.  It covers maybe a quarter of a mile from Ave A all the way over to the East River.  The most widely known part of Alphabet City is Tompkins Square Park, which is interesting in all sorts of strange ways.


Dale and Thomas Popcorn in Times Square

January 19, 2008

I can’t remember what the show was, but last Friday I was flipping the channels and ran across a show extolling “Dale & Thomas Popcorn” and how it was made and why it was so good and so on.

And I remembered something about a popcorn place in Times Square.  At the end of the program, I went and googled it and found they were the same place.  Or, at least the Times Square Dale and Thomas store was one of the company’s franchises or outlets.


I had to try it.

It’s on 48th Street and Broadway.  A very busy corner.


So, on Saturday I went to check it out.  The place is small and very, very clean.  It was also empty of customers, save for Famous Ankles himself.  I can’t imagine that’s a surprise.  It was a cold day and popcorn isn’t really a cold weather kind of food (at least in my estimation).

The popcorn is gourmet quality and they love to tout their flavors.  You can check the link above for their various flavors (and they do have a big variety).

There were two flavors that I was interested in:  white cheddar and black peppercorn popcorn and the chocolate drizzle.

I’m pleased to say that they do give free samples.  I tried the peppercorn first.  That was really, really good.  I then tried the chocolate drizzle; also very good.  And then it was time to make a choice and all I could think of was that I didn’t want to wander the cold streets with a bag of popcorn…so…I bought a sealed bag of “peanut butter & white chocolate drizzlecorn”.  At my leisure, I took it home and ate it later while watching the tube.

Too decadent for my taste.  Really good, but too much for me.  I’m not tempted to buy it again but that’s because I’m a cheap man and at $5.42 for 3.75 ounce bag (a smaller bag than you might expect from popcorn as the chocolate and all has some weight to it), I can resist the temptation.

But I think the peppercorn is calling my name…


Old NYC Farm in Murray Hill

January 18, 2008

In one of my wanderings I spotted this plaque at 35th Street and Park Avenue.


The plaque notes the center of the Murray family’s “Inclenberg Farm”.  The area of Murray Hill is named after that family and it appears the lady of the family, Mary Lindley Murray, “rendered signal service in the Revolutionary War.”

Good for them…but NYC was Tory for most of the war.

I’ve linked the Wikipedia article on Murray Hill and discovered to my delight how Mrs. Murray did the honors for George Washington.  Apparently she delayed Howe’s pursuit of the Continental Army by inviting Howe to lunch. 

A Quaker waging war by lunching with a gentleman?  Cool.

Of course, nothing of the farm appears to remain…well, maybe up high there are some gardens on the roofs in the area.  Here’s a couple of shots of the immediate neighborhood.


The above is at the corner where the plaque is situated.  The one below is the old armory just a block away.



Ornate Freight Entrance

January 17, 2008

I saw this freight entrance the other day in the my wanderings and just found it interesting enough to take a picture.  The door opens to the street and it just seems to come from a bygone era where you made it look good even if it was only for freight.

I can’t even remember exactly where I took it.  I think it’s in Murray Hill.