Meet 77th Street
Almost before I began my journey across 77th Street, I was struck by the unusual apartment complex between York Avenue and the East River. Completed in 1912, the East River Homes were constructed as low-income housing for families with a member suffering from tuberculosis. Although it was later converted into co-ops and renamed Cherokee Place, passersby can still appreciate the open spiral staircases with areas that once were meant for patients to rest upon. Directly across from this is John Jay Park, which includes not only benches and a playground, but also an outdoor swimming pool.
The fascinating start to my journey foreshadowed a street full of quirky, intriguing finds. The first was Lifshitz Gallery, where Elias Lifshitz has been selling his wares since he arrived in New York from Mexico in the late 1960s. Along with being an artist himself and displaying his masterful bronzes, Elias offers antiques and curiosities that he has picked up at flea markets and estate sales. Over the years, Elias taught himself how to repair watches and has gained a reputation for fixing some of the finest timepieces.
Across the street, I stopped in and chatted with the staff at Caffe Buon Gusto, a true neighborhood Italian restaurant. Nearby was a newcomer to the block, Maroni Hot Pots, run by the husband and wife duo who opened Maroni Cuisine on Long Island. Their New York location introduces a new concept to Italian cuisine: bright red takeaway pots of family-style Italian food. Shortly after, I was thrilled to discover what might be the tiniest bookstore I have ever encountered. Assouline, the “publisher of culture,” has rows of beautifully bound books perfectly displayed in a shop that is adjacent to The Mark Hotel. I fondly reminisced about spending a long weekend at the hotel many years ago. Nestled inside is Jean-Georges, the restaurant where I dared to try brussels sprouts for the very first time, not too long ago, and have never tasted them better prepared since.
After my stroll through Central Park to the West Side, I stepped inside a favorite dining spot of mine, Caffe Storico. It is attached to The New York Historical Society, one of the lesser known, but what I believe to be one of the most superb, museums in Manhattan. Spending time at Dovetail, a restaurant where we had celebrated my daughter’s birthday several years ago, also brought back warm memories. In the summer of 2015, shortly before I visited, they had undergone a major renovation that resulted in a whimsical, inviting interior, inspired by owner/chef John Fraser’s childhood spent on California beaches.
And what better way to end a day than at Pure Yoga. Descending a staircase – from the loud construction-filled street outside – into a calm, serene environment, I felt my whole body relax as I was given a personal tour of the massive facilities, a feeling that remained with me as I continued my walk to the Hudson River.