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Meet 59th Street

I was giddy with excitement having the iconic Queensboro Bridge (also known as the 59th Street Bridge, and more recently renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) alongside me as I began my walk on 59th Street. How incredible that my journey started on 1st Street and now I have worked my way to this bridge that has been written about, sung about and traversed by so many people, myself included. I have participated in the Five Boro Bike Tour, when the bridge was closed to traffic as thousands rode on the upper level to get into Queens. And I have been known to bike across the lower level of the bridge alongside my husband, who, I might add, rides his bike across the bridge every season of the year to his office.

The first person that I had the pleasure of meeting on 59th was Pino Luongo, the captivating owner of the Italian restaurant, Morso. After spending time chatting and tasting his incredible food, I next poked my head inside Ubu Gallery, where their primary focus is on surrealism. Across the street, nestled under the trusses of the bridge, I reflected upon the unique architecture of Guastavino’s – once a marketplace, then a restaurant, and now a private event space.

Shuffling just a few steps along on the sidewalk, I entered a wonderland of sugar and design at Cake Alchemy, and met pastry-chef-turned-culinary-artist, Lauri Ditunno. I tasted some delicious samples of her masterpiece cakes, then moved a few doors over to the glass chandeliers at Vidal’s Antiques, then mused at the endless paintings, jewelry and artifacts that define Royale Galleries.

It was difficult to resist the temptation to ride up to the seventh floor of Bloomingdales – to Forty Carrots – and grab a cup of, what I believe to be, the best frozen yogurt in the city. Instead, I gave a nod to the internationally-known department store, and continued on my way west.

Amidst a neighborhood of chain stores that includes Zara and H&M, I regained my full sense of curiosity at the decades-old Argosy Book Store. Having spent countless hours over the years browsing the shelves of this phenomenal shop, it was no small wonder that I became speechless as Naomi – one of the three sisters who now run their father’s store – took me on a grand tour throughout the six floors of their building.

While walking on 59th, I stood and watched an Irish pub, The Carriage House, literally being dismantled. I later learned that they had been here for some twenty-three years, but were forced to move on. I am pleased to report to those who were regulars that the owners have found a new location nearby on Second Avenue. Evidently, the rents only keep going up in Midtown and it is a story that I hear on a daily basis. It is a sad reality that continues to threaten the last remaining family-run businesses. With this thought in mind, I applauded Jim’s Shoe Repair, where the founder’s eighty-four-year-old son, also named Jim, continues to offer a traditional shoe shine in the original wooden booths from 1932. And while tip toeing through the back area, I quickly became aware that almost all of the shoe repair work was being done by hand – the old fashioned way.

Crossing Fifth Avenue, I strolled through The Plaza, saying hello to Hilary Knight’s large painting of Eloise on the main floor, and took the escalator down to the food halls. It is an experience to meander across the floor gazing at the delectable sandwiches and desserts, or to find a seat inside the Todd English restaurant with a variety of counters for lunch or dinner. Upon exiting the Plaza, I walked to the other side of 59th, joining the horse and carriages lined up along the park. My purpose, however, on this occasion, was solely to look up at each of the spectacular hotels and apartment buildings that line Central Park South. Some of these date back as far as the early 1900s and often housed a veritable list of who’s who. Although many have changed hands over the years, been torn down or refurbished, the history still remains, as do the remarkable views from some of their windows.

As I have walked the side streets of Manhattan, I have related a number of occasions that had special meaning in my own life. On this street, it is the Essex House that affords many memorable moments as this was where my summer camp reunion was held each winter. It is also the hotel in which my husband’s parents were married in 1948.

My last stop along Central Park South was Michael White’s elegant Italian seafood restaurant, Marea. Many thanks to Anthony Jackson, the company’s social media guru at the time, for spending time with me and sharing some of the history of this award-winning dining spot. Leaving its beautiful setting, I walked into the center of Columbus Circle and entered the Museum of Arts and Design, where contemporary artists, designers and artisans are celebrated.

Past Columbus Circle and the Time Warner building, 59th Street continues on at Ninth Avenue. While Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital and John Jay College of Criminal Justice take up much of the block between Tenth and Eleventh, I enthusiastically stepped inside the studios of the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN). I was initially introduced to this phenomenal, free public-access cable network when I was invited by Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, to join a panel discussion on the city’s new domain, .nyc. Read more about it and watch the video on our press page.

Perhaps a bit exhausted by day’s end, my energy was renewed as I entered Row House NYC at 5:30 and witnessed enthusiastic men and women as they participated in a full-body, low-impact fitness training program via rowing machines. I was inspired and will return for my own chance to try this out one day soon.

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