Vinegar Hill


Next on our tour of Brooklyn we’re heading to a curious little neighbourhood that is not exactly on the tourist trail – Vinegar Hill.

It’s a tiny neighbourhood in Brooklyn on the East River Waterfront between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


The neighbourhood gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill, an engagement near Enniscorthy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Vinegar Hill was commonly known as Irishtown in the 19th century, one of several places in the New York area with that name because of its sizeable population of Irish immigrants.

Most of Vinegar Hill consists of 19th-century Federal Style and Greek Revival style homes mixed with industrial buildings.

Hudson Avenue and Plymouth, Water and Front Streets are not tarmacked roads, rather they are made of Belgian Blocks which are similar to cobbles but a bit flatter and more rectangular.

The tiny little district is like a miniature open air architecture museum.

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It feels like a place stranded in time – a odd, out of place that has sealed the past in amber and shows how Brooklyn would have looked in the early 19th century.

The area was declared a Historical District in the late 1990s but it does not feel as if any investment is forthcoming, rather it feels like the developers are circling like vultures, just waiting to be able to level these characterful properties and throw up more homogeneous, glass sky scrapers.

Sadly it has a air of slow and inevitable decay, as is evidenced by the lone three story walk-up houses that are still standing defiantly even though their neighbours have long been demolished.

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It is one of a vanishing breed of areas that shows how New York was, back when it was a mecca for anyone with a dream.

A place of opportunity no matter how rich or poor you were. There is little space for penniless dreamers in the Big Apple these days.

With its endless concrete canyons and ever higher towers, New York feels like a place so concerned with rushing to its future that it has no time to appreciate where it has come from.

Long may places like Vinegar Hill stay standing to allow for a nostalgic remembrance of the ordinary people that contributed to NYCs success.

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Manhattan bridge and Dumbo

The awe inspiring views just keep on coming on our whirlwind trip around New York. Still over on Brooklyn we’re taking a gander at another epic bridge – The Manhattan Bridge.

The bridge’s total length is 6,855 ft (2,089 m). It is one of four toll-free bridges spanning the East River; the other three are the Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Bridges.

Speaking of which, here’s the stunning Brooklyn Bridge again as viewed from the Main Street Park in Dumbo

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The area around the Manhattan Bridge is known as DUMBO – short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Originally a ferry landing, it is full of imposing 19th- and early 20th-century industrial and warehouse buildings.

With the de-industrialisation of New York City, Dumbo saw an influx of artists and other young homeowners looking for inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes.

The acronym ‘Dumbo’ came about in 1978, when residents coined it in the hope that such an unattractive name would help deter developers. Sadly this was in vain as it is now a very sought after, and as a result, expensive area.

35476214_10155407738187353_1990331795366739968_nEven though it’s now a prestigious address, there are still colourful corners to be found such as the cute little mexican cafe above.

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But the main draw for me in DUMBO is the stunning views of Manhattan Bridge that you can catch from the streets in the area.

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One of the best views can be found from Plymouth Street, lined with old brick warehouses that bookend the amazing views of the bridge.

The bridge was officially opened on December 31, 1909 and has since seen a veritable army of drivers and pedestrian utilise it on a daily basis.

 

 

Watching the water taxis

More spectacular views of Lower Manhattan can be seen from the Fulton Landing Pier

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Fulton Landing Pier it’s perfect place to linger and people watch. As well as being the home of the famous Brooklyn Icecream Factory.

Fulton Ferry Landing pier, at the foot of Old Fulton Street, is one of Brooklyn’s most historic sites, marking the location of the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1642.

It forms part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park that encompasses a variety of parks, greenaways and beaches.

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The refurbished pier was re-opened in 1997, offering amazing views of the harbour, Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

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The landing is still a great place for watching the comings and goings of the East River.

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The landing includes custom-designed marine railings that feature words from Walt Whitman’s famous “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” poem.

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There’s also a lovely, but very expensive, place to eat in the form of the five star River Cafe. Quaint and cute looking but SUPER COSTLY… but with a view that almost justifies the price!

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Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Moving on from the lovely brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, we’re off to get some of the best views of Manhattan from this side of the East River.

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Walkers, runners, rollerbladers and sightseers all stroll along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s one of the best places to check out New York from a distance.

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Running alongside the East River you have stunning vistas of the Manhattan skyline across the water.  It’s lined with benches, little areas of parkland and even a small beach.

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Brooklyn Heights Promenade is just 0.3 miles long but packs a mighty punch in terms of sights.

The promenade opened in 1950 and was built to protect Brooklyn Heights from a proposal to build an expressway through the heart of the neighbourhood.

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The promenade is another New York filmic hot spot featuring in Annie Hall, Moonstruck and Saturday Night Fever.

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You can see the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan and towering One World Trade Centre.

We can also spot the bustling South Street Seaport close to our hotel and the ubiquitous Brooklyn Bridge, the iconic link between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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It’s well worth the short stroll – although it is only a ten minute walk at a quick pace you’ll spend considerably longer just admiring the iconic views.

Next up more stunning views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge park.

Brooklyn Heights

Heading under the river we head to Brooklyn Heights an affluent residential neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Originally referred to as Brooklyn Village, it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834.

The neighborhood is noted for its low-rise architecture and its many brownstone rowhouses, most of them built prior to the Civil War

Brooklyn Heights was the first neighborhood to be protected by the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law of New York City.

The areas is full of lovely architecture, the mainly typical brownstones that feature in nearly every New York film or TV show.

A typical brownstone rowhouse is three or four stories tall, with the main floor above the street level and is reached by stairs, referred to as a “stoop”, a word derived from Dutch.

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Little Italy

Fresh from China Town we head to the neighbouring district of Little Italy.

Once known for its large population of Italian Americans today the evocative neighbourhood holds only a handful of Italian stores and restaurants.

It has some well known neighbours, to the west by Tribeca and Soho, on the south by Chinatown, on the east by the Bowery and Lower East Side, and on the north by Nolita.

It might be small but it packs a lot into a few blocks including colourful artwork and this traditional / kitsch cigar shop complete with Pope and Native American Indian wood carving.

Mass immigration from Italy during the 1880’s led to large settlements of Italian immigrants in lower Manhattan and in 1910 Little Italy was home to almost 10,000 Italians, all bringing their food, language and culture vividly to life in its streets.

They also brought with them less desirable influences including organised crime and the Mafia.

These days the district is a shadow of its former self with its neighbour China Town rapidly expanding to takeover where gelaterias and authentic Italian restaurants once thrived.

But you can still see the red and white checked table clothes lining the streets and grab yourself a cannoli or traditional pastry.

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It is still a fascinating place to visit, still full of little details including this Italian flag coloured water hydrant.

You can also spot colourful wall art in hidden corners if you slow down and take a look.

Little Italy was the location of the fictional Corleone crime family vividly bought to life in the novel The Godfather and the three movies based on it.

Tenement buildings, once home to the immigrants who settled the area still line the narrow streets.

Below is the John Jovino Gun Shop. It has the dubious honour of being the oldest gun shop in New York City, it also claims to be the oldest in all of America.

Founded in 1911, most of its customers are in law enforcement.

Even though its heyday is over, in the sunlight, watching the older men lounge in the shade, you are still transported back to the early days of Little Italy where optimistic men and women from the old world made the bustling streets of NYC their new home.

Colourful Chinatown

Even though we turned our eyes westward for our honeymoon we can’t quite escape our love of all things Asian. So we’re heading to Chinatown for a snoot around.

Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere with an estimated population between 90,000 and 100,000 people and is one of  12 Chinatowns in the New York metropolitan area.

Manhattan’s Chinatown borders the Lower East Side to its east, Little Italy to its north, and Tribeca to its west.


The bustling street scene stretches for several blocks with greengrocers and fishmongers  around Mott Street, Mulberry Street, Canal Street and along East Broadway.

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Then there are also lots of shops selling the obligatory good luck charms, paper goods and other colourful items. Naturally I stock up!!

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Wealth and Wall Street

Our hotel is not far from the financial quarter including the infamous Wall Street. A worldwide symbol of money, stocks and shares.

And thanks to cultural references and films such as the Bonfire of the Vanities, Wall Street’s hideous protagonist Gordon Gecko and the more recent Wolf of Wall Street, it has also come to serve as a metaphor for greed, amoral trading and self-interest.

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Wall Street is an eight-block-long street running roughly northwest to southeast from Broadway to South Street, at the East River.

According to Wikipdia there are varying accounts about how the Dutch-named “de Waalstraat” got its name. One version is that the name of the street was derived from a wall on the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, built to protect against Native Americans, pirates, and the British.

Another theory is that Wall Street was named after Walloons, a distinctive ethnic community within Belgium as the Dutch name for a Walloon is Waal.

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There’s plenty of buildings dedicated to the literal enrichment of bankers and stockbrokers such as the New York Stock exchange above.

Plus there’s places to spend all those ill gotten gains too – like the famous Tiffanys Jewellers.

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Below is Trinity Church that was finished in 1846. It is the third holy incarnation on the site as previous versions perished first by fire then by severe storm damage. A church has been there for over 300 years.

During the September 11 attacks, people took refuge inside the church from a huge dust cloud produced by the first World Trade Center tower collapse. Some of the chapel pew’s paint was rubbed off from the people taking refuge.

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Other notable buildings in the area include Trump Towers and the Federal Hall National Memorial. The current memorial was built in 1842 on the site of the former Federal Hall.

This building was particularly important as it was the first capitol of the newly created United States in 1789 and on its steps George Washington was sworn in as the first President.

The Staten Island ferry

Next iconic experience on the New York adventure – the Staten Island ferry!

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These super distinctive FREE orange ferries trundle their way from Whitehall in Manhattan to the St George terminal on Staten Island.

The ferry, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, carries over 23 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile journey and has been in operation since 1905.

On a typical weekday, five boats make 118 trips, carrying approximately 70,000 passenger and numbers are swelled by hordes of visitors – all eager to catch a free glimpse of Lady Liberty from the boat.

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Each ferry gets its own personal escort out of the harbour by armed coast guards – a little disconcerting! But you also get your first real view of Manhattan from the water.

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And . . . . you also get your first glimpse of that most iconic of women – Lady Liberty… albeit a rather small glimpse!!

However you do get a bit closer to the Green Goddess as the boat floats onwards.

The journey itself takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and is a favourite thing for visitors to do.

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The ferry is instantly recognisable as an icon of New York and has featured in numerous films including Working Girl and The Dark Knight.

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We disembark on Staten Island and, like most passengers, immediately whizz around to rejoin the queue heading back to Manhattan!

In all fairness, Staten Island probably does have some sights to check out, but with time at a premium, and a long list of sights to tick off, we don’t have time!

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So back to Manhattan we head, with yet another stunning view of the Manhattan skyline.

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Just time for another snap of the Staten Island ferry sign for the hubby and me!

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As we leave Battery Park I am distracted, and a little entranced, by the weirdest merry-go-round I have ever seen – The Seaglass Carousel. Enjoy this surreal snippet!

 

Transitions and forward momentum

Onwards with our whistlestop tour of New York’s most famous places. I get excited about the Madison Avenue sign before we spot an unusually attired New Yorker.

We’re headed to Grand Central Station which opened to the public in February 1913.

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This historic world-famous landmark in Midtown Manhattan is not just a transportation hub, there’s also plenty of shopping and dining opportunities

It’s also a well known New York meeting place – ‘meet me at the clock’ is an often repeated phase referring to the opal faced information booth clock above.

After a quick scoot around we’re heading back to our hotel which happens to be a block away from the World Trade Centre.

Here you can see the immense One World Observatory rising above a futuristic looking construction, which despite its space age appearance, is actually a transportation hub that replaced the PATH train station that was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks,

Its centerpiece is the Oculus, a glass-and-steel structure designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove in flight.

The World Trade centre is gradually rebuilding itself from the tragic events of 9/11 with the construction of several new highrises.

The tallest of which is the One World Observatory that stands at 546 metres from ground to very tip making it the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.

As well as the towering futuristic towerblocks, we can’t visit the site without seeing the memorial to the victims of the attacks.

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The memorial is comprised of two 1-acre pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. They sit on the footprints of the Twin Towers, symbolising the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks.

The waterfalls are intended to silence the sounds of the city – making the site a contemplative sanctuary

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 152 bronze parapets on the memorial pools, this includes the 2,977 people killed in the September 11 attacks and six who died in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

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The memorial trust place roses on the names of each person on their birthday as a touching gesture of individual remembrance.

Highlighting the fact that each name was a person, with a life, family and history – not just a victim.

Then it’s back to the hotel, stopping briefly to take a snap of a typical New York street. Complete with ubiquitous sidewalk food stalls.

We also love spotting the steam vents that form part of the New York City steam system.

It’s a district heating system which takes steam produced by steam generating stations and carries it under the streets of Manhattan to heat and cool high rise buildings and businesses

We end a jam packed day at our favourite spot – Pier 15 on the South Street Sea Port.