West Side Frolics, in NYC

Well, I was hardly frolicking, though the warmer temperatures today had me reaching for my lighter trench as I headed outside, into the very welcome sunshine. Whilst it was still layer-worthy weather, I was glad to stuff my gloves into my coat pockets and wander about; taking photos comfortably – my fingers devoid of any painful numbing sensations so persistent in the cooler temps.

If you like architecture and are drawn to that well-worn, distressed look reminiscent of an industrial mid-19th Century Manhattan, then one of the best strolls to take is along the West Side of downtown NYC: starting at the Meatpacking District, and making your way through a residential West Village, along the outskirts of SoHo, and into the narrow streets of lovely Tribeca.

To be honest, at the halfway point of the walk (the SoHo outskirts) you will enter into a considerably commercial area. You’ll pass by tall storage warehouses that cast shadows below; the glassy rectangular prism of a building that is Trump Soho; large car lots, so full that their parked cars overflow onto the adjoining pavement; a few huge advertising agencies (Saatchi); and, enough Equinox gyms that could seemingly maintain the fitness levels of Manhattan’s Lower Half.

That said, this juncture is an opportune time to pop into D’Agostino supermarket or a deli to grab a beverage and a pack of trail mix ~ for ongoing sustenance.

Below is a glimpse of today; the last day of January. I hope this walk may inspire you to discover and/or re-discover Manhattan’s downtown; its formerly industrial ‘hoods.

As an aside, I want to thank robertoalborghetti and barbaraelka, and Photobella’s Project 365, who have nominated me for the Sunshine and Versatile Blogger Awards respectively. I appreciate it very much and as a follower of each of your blogs, I look forward to reading your posts. I hope to share the sunshine and passion for New York through this tour.


START: Meatpacking District

Head to 14th Street and Ninth Avenue. The meatpacking district covers about 20 square blocks, and is also bounded by the High Line and Horatio Street.

Cobblestones on Gansevoort St

The Gansevoort Hotel, to the left, Sephora - in front

Still a cool and trendy place to go during the week (preferably), the neighbourhood has retained its character from decades past. In the 1840’s it served as a market district: initially for produce, and later – for meat. Its cobblestoned streets, original store signage, and glimpses of the 1930’s elevated railroad – now the High Line park – are all reminiscent of the industrial era.

Cobblestones and Patios. Then, this area was known as Gansevoort Market. In 1884, New York named two acres of land after General Peter Gansevoort, a Revolutionary War hero.

West 13th Street's warehouses

Fact: In 1900, 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants filled the district; by the 1930s, those houses produced the nation’s third-largest volume of dressed meats. The city, eager to retain the immediate supply of fresh meat and jobs, subsidized the industry throughout the early 20th century. *

Head in the sand...

TO DO: Visit the High Line; go boutique shopping; have a coffee and pastry at french-inspired bistro Pastis; admire the intermittent street art. The Whitney Museum is slated to open here in 2015.

TO EAT: Have a cocktail and stay for dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, Spice Market – inspired by the street food the chef enjoyed while traveling in Southeast Asia.

TO STAY: The Gansevoort Hotel, for its rooftop pool and bar (in the heart of the meatpacking district on 9th Avenue), or The Standard on the High Line, for its Hudson River views. The new Dream Downtown is scheduled to open on 16th Street and 9th Avenue, in Spring.

Window Shopping

Spice Market, with The Standard Hotel in the background

INTERMISSION: West Village and SoHo’s Outskirts

Free Press

Somewhere in the West Village

On the corner of Charles and Greenwich Streets

Trump Soho

Bordering Canal Street

Subways, fire stations and Tribeca


TRiangle BElow CAnal Street is what Tribeca stands for. Bounded on the north by Canal Street, south by Vesey Street, east by Broadway and west by the Hudson River, it hardly forms a triangle – more so, a trapezium.

Here’s the story: in the 1970’s, a tiny triangular area bounded by Canal, Lispenard and Church Streets was zoned to allow for live/work status; this movement was initiated by its activist artist residents, who called themselves the Tribeca Block Association.

A reporter covering the zoning story for the New York Times came across the block association’s submission to City Planning, and mistakenly assumed that the name Tribeca referred to the entire neighborhood, not just one block.**

Thus, Tribeca as a ‘hood was born.

Tribeca streetscapes

Water towers and cobblestones - looking towards Varick Street

Tribeca was one of the city’s first residential neighborhoods, settled during the late 18th Century. By the mid 19th Century, the area was transformed into a commercial center – mainly for textile production – and it was then that a large numbers of store and loft buildings were constructed along Broadway.

A textile past: "Look for The Clothespin Tack"

The area along the Hudson River became a bustling produce, dairy and meat market known as Washington Market. Industry declined in the 1960’s and so in the 70’s, artists converged on the area. From the 1980’s until today, large scale conversion has transformed this cute neighbourhood into what is one of the priciest in Manhattan (based on median closing price)***.

Don’t be intimidated by its expensive price tags: this is one of the loveliest neighbourhoods to stroll. Its cobblestone streets and converted warehouses are restored and well maintained, and the neighbourhood is a stone’s throw away from the River Promenade. Trailing the Hudson River from Battery Park and past Chelsea Piers, it makes New Jersey look really good.

TO DO: Tribeca Film Festival – co-founded by Robert DeNiro in 2002 to help assist in Lower Manhattan’s recovery after 9/11. DeNiro has been instrumental in building up Tribeca since then.

TO EAT: Bubby’s for brunch; Nobu for dinner (co-owned by Robert DeNiro). For thrills: Tribeca Grill – also co-owned by Robert DeNiro, it counts Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Philips, Russell Simmons, Christopher Walken and Harvey & Bob Weinstein of the Weinstein Company amongst its investors.

TO STAY: Tribeca Grand Hotel – which actually stands on a triangular block – has a cool lobby bar for pre-dinner drinks. The James Hotel, located just above Canal Street, is on the cusp of Soho and Tribeca.

Tribeca Grand Hotel's clock

The James Hotel

OPTION: Outskirts of Chinatown/City Hall/enroute to Brooklyn Bridge

Heading home to Brooklyn, my subway stop is by City Hall. You may also choose to continue on this way from Tribeca, as the route leads to the Brooklyn Bridge. Here, you’ll also be able to take in some vistas of a courted Manhattan, on its East side.

US Courthouse, to the left; City Hall - ahead

U.S Court House

Flanked - New York by Frank Gehry: at 870 feet tall, it is the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere

New York by Genhry - the Brooklyn Bridge is to the left

Chambers Street Subway

*http://meatpacking-district.com   **Wikipedia