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Meet 50th Street

I live on the west side and spend as much time as I can either biking or walking along the Hudson River. I certainly appreciate, however, when I can begin my journey across a side street gazing out at the East River on a beautiful blue-sky day. 50th Street affords one this lovely opportunity as it dead-ends in a picturesque residential setting at Beekman Place.

From 1765-1874, Mount Pleasant, the Beekman family mansion, stood on property overlooking the East River. This small area between 49th and 51st Streets continued to have a long and fascinating history with well-regarded socialites and artists taking up residence in the surrounding brownstones and apartment buildings. On one visit, I discovered a plaque stating that Irving Berlin had lived there from 1947 until 1989 when he passed away at the age of 101.

Tearing myself away from the view, I began walking west. Dotted with missions and consulates from Luxembourg to Swaziland, I soon found myself inside Sofia Wine Bar. In its intimate and inviting setting, I chatted with the bartender before heading into the Kimberly Hotel where I was met with an extraordinary saltwater fish tank. And, tucked around the corner in the hotel, I pulled up a seat and chatted with the welcoming and hospitable staff at the Italian restaurant, Bistango. Not only is the food superb, but also much of the menu is devoted to gluten-free choices, including pasta and pizza.

Heading out, I approached the historic area of midtown where there are side street entrances to the splendid St. Bartholomew’s Church, the legendary Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the grand New York Palace Hotel, the upscale department store, Saks Fifth Avenue and without a doubt, the most highly visited church in New York, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Crossing Fifth Avenue, I relished being in an iconic part of Manhattan where Rockefeller Center dominates. For those who have never ventured to the 70th floor at Top of the Rock, I must recommend it. Stepping outside far above the streets of Manhattan onto the rooftop offers vistas from every vantage point. Trust me when I say, “On a clear day, you can see forever.” Last, but certainly not least, is the distinguished landmark building, Radio City Music Hall, where the theater has remained one of the top venues for spectacular entertainment since 1932.

I am also pleased to let readers know that in September of 2014, a splendid new community garden has opened between Park and Madison Avenues with a beautifully lit waterfall. At the ribbon cutting, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that it wanted to thank New Yorkers for their patience while construction on the East Side Access project is taking place. The hope is to connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.

Restaurants abound in midtown, and 50th Street has plenty of noteworthy choices. Maloney & Porcelli, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse and The Palm serve exquisite steaks and seafood with classic sides to accompany them. The Little Beet and Melt Shop, both under the same ownership, are favorite stops for lunch with fast casual service. Don Antonio by Starita fires up excellent pizzas and Chez Napoleon invites guests to take a step back in time while it serves many of the same French classics as its original owners did when it opened in 1960. Puff Cha is farthest west addition, where a group of friends from Thailand gather together to cook a market favorite, curry puffs.

There is an intriguing artistic display outside citizenM New York Times Square Hotel that cannot help but catch everyone’s eyes and inevitably draw them indoors. An appealing concept for travelers, the Dutch company has abandoned all the rules in a hotel stay and created a strikingly decorated and inviting lobby for guests to mingle for hours. The identical stylish rooms on every floor are offered at low costs and include all the necessities, just in a very small space.

A meaningful way to end my wandering on 50th was to stop by Creative Connections where I met Earl Hagan and his team of devoted educators. New Yorkers never cease to amaze me, and this group is right up there with some of the most committed. Working with over 3,000 students each year, they are dedicated to providing support to underserved students in public schools.

Read more about every place on 50th Street!