A New York Love Story

Written in the Spring of 2012

Cherry Blossoms in Central Park

Looking down upon 79th Street Transverse from Central Park, the ubiquitous yellow cabs passing underway feel as natural as the cherry blossoms that surround me. Juxtaposed against an oasis of calm, Fifth Avenue bustles at the Park’s perimeter with a constant stream of boot-to-pavement. To my left, a scene just as frenetic is playing out in the Met Museum; stoic, its interior is overrun by tourists trying to navigate its expanse.

This is New York – a city of dichotomies. Home to millions of people, and a holiday destination for millions more, it is the most bustling metropolis in the United States. New York City is where I, an expat based in a city charged with an unstoppable energy, found my peace.

Park Avenue, New York

I had been caught in New York’s embrace from the onset. Whisked into its whirlwind, the city subsequently unraveled a series of monumental moments along the way. Meeting him was the most definitive – it sparked a new beginning.

I’d fallen in love with him with the same ease I’d fallen for New York. Just as I’d experienced the spark of the city whilst standing in Times Square as a twenty-something year old thinking, this feels so right; years later I felt a similar sentiment as we dined together at my favourite restaurant on Park Avenue.

Ever since that first date, we’ve been walking the same path.

Now, standing in Central Park, newly married, I realise that my love for New York has taken on a deeper meaning. This is a city that can so easily seduce, enthrall, and enchant. But it’s when you stay a while that you really feel the beat of its strong, passionate, and loving heart.

United Colours of Dumbo, Brooklyn ~ Capture the Colour

I’m a huge fan of colour. Even though my outfits are black dominant, I’m instinctively drawn to bright hues. A splash of pink on a yellow wall, a dumpster decorated in pink and green graffiti against a white painted wall, a pastel yellow-gold sunset against a light blue sky overhead – these are just some of the colours I noticed today. A Taste of Travel and WITH A HOPE nominated me to enter Capture the Colour PhotoBlogging Travel Competition: “…publish a blog post with a photo that captures the following 5 colours – Blue, Green, Yellow, White and Red. Tell us where the photo was taken… what you could see, smell, hear, feel and perhaps a witty caption about that photo or trip in general. When you’ve finished writing your post, be sure to nominate 5 other bloggers to take part in Capture the Colour by listing their website…” Instead of going through my archives, I decided to challenge myself. My 35 mm and I, with husband in tow, braved the thunderstorms yesterday. I took  5 photos to showcase the colours of one of my favourite places in Brooklyn – DUMBO. BLUE The looming thunder clouds on a humid summer’s day provided such a contrast to both the demin blue in this street art installation, and the dirty blue of the Manhattan Bridge. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This neighbourhood is one of the priciest zip codes in Manhattan. RED You’ll notice an abundance of red when you’re looking for it. At least I did. From red fire hydrants, and red backed STOP signs, to bright red traffic lights, and scribbled red graffiti. DUMBO is a former hub of industry and many of its buildings are made of brick. By the Brooklyn Bridge stands the shell of a 25,000 square foot former tobacco warehouse. It was constructed in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, saved from demolition in 1998 and, repaired and stabilized by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 2002. It’s red brick frames an enviable view. YELLOW Each colour should be an element of the photograph and not dominate the whole scene. I am looking for something beyond the clichés like a red sunset, blue sky or yellow flowers. For me originality will always take precedence over a pretty photograph.” Judge, PlanetD Unlike red, yellow was a harder colour to come by. Apart from spotting a yellow flower, this advertising campaign, covering scaffolding around a construction site, caught my eye. The yellow in this part of the image series stood out. Is taking a photo of a photo considered cliché? GREEN Noticing a Vespa in Brooklyn is becoming as frequent as spotting a yellow cab in Manhattan. Well, almost! This photo may as well have been taken in Rome; the Vespa looks vintage with a bit of comic appeal stuck to its face.

WHITE

“I love photos that tell a story.  I want something that could have only been taken by you, in that moment, in that way.  I love it when a photo captures a place so well that even if I’ve been there before, I think to myself, wow, I have to go there.” Judge, Christine Gilbert

Well Christine, if you haven’t been to DUMBO, I highly recommend it. There’s no better spot to view Manhattan from the East River.

The end date for this contest is August 29, and hoping there’s enough time for these bloggers to turn around their submissions, I nominate:

space1eleven.wordpress.com

 I’monnet Photo

Tricia A. Mitchell

scottseyephotos

Pearls & Prose

I heart DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY

Lazy Sunday morning; in bed, watching music videos on my Archos G9 tablet (not an Ipad). One of the most oft-repeated songs on my playlist is the Café Del Mar N O W Remix of Letting the Cables Sleep by BUSH, though today I happened upon the music video for the original version of the song and found myself rewinding & relistening… Was the band’s lead singer, Gavin Rossdale, walking down one of the railroad-tracked cobblestoned streets of DUMBO? Was that the Manhattan Bridge, at the end of one of the neighbourhood’s streets, about 15 seconds into the clip? I couldn’t confirm it while trying to research the video’s filming location on the Net (I did learn that Joel Schumacher directed the video) but it didn’t matter. It was enough to inspire me (and my husband, after some coaxing) to drive to DUMBO for an early afternoon coffee… and to take some photos of the ‘hood… again.

Manhattan Bridge in the background

Railroads and cobblestones

We’ve had coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company a number of times, and I’ve taken photos of DUMBO many a time too; I just never tire of doing either. Give me any excuse, and I am there ~ I can wholeheartedly say that I love visiting DUMBO. If it suited my budget, we would have moved here after relocating from the West Coast. And yet, judging by the recent real estate valuations, this just isn’t going to happen anytime soon either. This is the third most expensive neighbourhood in New York; a place where it’s pricier to look at Manhattan than to live in Manhattan.

<Property Shark runs updates on NYC’s most expensive neighborhoods and in Q3 2012 Dumbo came in 3rd place with a median sale price of $1,460,000.>

Brooklyn Roasting Company on Jay Street

Doughnut Plant donut and almond latte at Brooklyn Roasting Company

Mopeds are the new bicycle...

DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Every time I come here, I think of the scene in Bladerunner, when Harrison Ford’s character is having noodles in Chinatown. Now, many people may think otherwise – my husband-the-movie-aficionado included – but for me, the streets here conjure up the same feelings as those when I watch that part of the movie: mystery, darkness, cutting edge. Alot of DUMBO’s life happens under the Manhattan Bridge – it casts a shadow over the neighbourhood’s streets; the sound of the subway that rambles along it can be heard periodically overhead.

Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Life under the Bridge

In the late 1800’s, it was primarily a manufacturing district, housing warehouses and factories including Arbuckle Brothers (coffee and sugar), J.W. Masury & Son (paint), Robert Gair (paper boxes), E.W. Bliss (machinery) and Brillo (soap pads). With deindustrialization, it began becoming primarily residential, when artists and other young homesteaders seeking relatively large and inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes began moving there in the late 1970s.The acronym Dumbo arose in 1978, when new residents coined it in the belief such an unattractive name would help deter developers.*

The developers do not seem deterred at all.

Residences, businesses and a Con Edison power plant exist, side by side

New loft developments ~ living in a magazine?

Water tower as real estate advertising

The vista from the westernmost part of DUMBO, along the East River, is of downtown Manhattan; the neighbourhood is flanked by the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, yet not overrun with yuppies and fleeing Manhattanites, who still seem to be headed in the direction of Williamsburg – a place I also love (it’s where I Iive) though one that is busting with people, especially around Sunday brunch.

Brooklyn Bridge in background, Manhattan - in foreground.

JANE’S CAROUSEL:

Located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges at Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, the carousel is a ‘new’ piece of history in the industrial neighbourhood (cannot be seen in image above) ~ it was opened in September 2011 and costs $2 per ride.

The carousel was built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, based in Hatfield Pennsylvania. It was used in Idora Park, a private amusement park in Youngston, Ohio, until the early 1980s. In 1984, Walentas, a New Jersey native, traveled to Ohio to save the carousel from being taken apart and sold off in pieces.

She and her husband purchased it for $385,000.

Todd Goings, who specializes in carousel restorations, put the carousel back together for its opening. It is a three-row machine with 48 horses and two chariots.

Two Trees Management Company, LLC, a company her husband David Walentas founded, constructed the building in which the carousel is now housed on Water and Old Dock streets in DUMBO. The construction of the building cost $8 million.

The Walentases commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel, to design the building, which is essentially an encasement that allows the carousel to operate year-round. The 72×72-foot acrylic building provides framed views of the nearby bridges as well as the Manhattan skyline.**

Jane's Carousel - looking at the Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge through the panes enclosing Jane's Carousel

DUMBO also has a thriving arts community ~ street art is intermittent yet frequently visible; a few galleries can be found here; and, St Ann’s Warehouse, a respected theatre, is located on Water Street.

Since 1980, [St. Ann's Warehouse] has been putting on cutting-edge music, dance and puppetry productions…[Their] signature programming is just as enticing as ever… (Time Out)

Mural on Water Street

More street art on Water Street

On December 18, 2007, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the Dumbo section of Brooklyn as the city’s 90th historic district.*

Brooklyn Bridge, seen through a window of The Tobacco Warehouse.

THE TOBACCO WAREHOUSE:

It’s hard to miss this now-roofless, 25,000 square foot warehouse, which is situated directly under the Brooklyn Bridge Overpass in close proximity to Jane’s Carousel. It was constructed in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, saved from demolition in 1998 and, repaired and stabilized by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 2002.

Intersected: Brooklyn Bridge and The Tobacco Warehouse

The streets may seem deserted in parts, and many of the buildings devoid of any activity, yet the cafes, bookstores, retailers (yes, Bang&Olufsen and West Elm have set up shop here) and the parks are full of life. Maybe that’s what I like so much about it – you can be alone, yet the neighbourhood isn’t a lonely one. And now that it has been decided to repurpose the Con Edison power plant along the East River, Gavin Rossdale will be right on the money with Letting the Cables Sleep.

Arched beauty

Streetscapes reflected

How to get to DUMBO: Walk – accessible via Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge; car – via BQE; ferry – East River ferry; subway – A and C trains; bus – B25, B67, B69.

*Wikipedia **Brooklyn Downtown Star – Jane’s Carousel

The Good Old Brooklyn Bridge…

… sang Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s black & white film, It Happened in BrooklynThe Brooklyn Bridge  is such a beautiful song.

If someone asked you to name New York’s top three iconic landmarks, I am sure that nine times out of ten, the Brooklyn Bridge would make the cut. It’s been inspiration for so many films, poems, stories, as well as a setting for life’s moments.

Love moments, locked on the Bridge

Architecturally stunning, from it you can see expansive views of down- and uptown Manhattan, as well as the water tower adorned industrial vista of a lofted Brooklyn. Its prime geographic location and open air viewing deck mean considerably less obstructed vantage points of New York than those seen from the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. (NB: The Bridge is undergoing renovation at this time so there is scaffolding on part of the way from Brooklyn towards its centre).

Sightseers on scaffolding; uptown Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge (background)

Scaffolding from Brooklyn side

Unlike its aforementioned siblings, who have separate pathways on either side of them for cyclists and walkers (though the rule is slightly relaxed on the Manhattan Bridge given its current construction detours), on the Brooklyn Bridge, everyone shares the same path. There may be a dividing line to maintain some order, though this is hard to achieve given the throngs of tourists who cross it daily; walkers can be seen strolling shoulder to shoulder and cyclists love to ring their bike-bells to caution stop-start  photographers and gawkers, who may have crossed the line. That said, it is very fun photographing the landmark.

Tripods and Manhattan vistas

As the Brooklyn Bridge is mentioned and/or featured in so many works, I thought I’d share some interesting excerpts with you, so you may get to know it from a number of points of view.

Enjoy!

All photographs are my own – taken between December 2011 and January 2012. A few may have been retouched with the Nikon D5000.

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I’ve lived most of my life in Manhattan, but as close as Brooklyn is to Manhattan, there are people who live there who have been to Manhattan maybe once or twice. ~ Ellen Burstyn

Brooklyn is very much worth the visit...

Dumbo's lofts from Brooklyn Bridge

Good composition is like a suspension bridge – each line adds strength and takes none away. ~ Robert Henri

View from Broklyn's Fulton Park

Mortimer Brewster: All I did was cross the bridge and I was in Brooklyn. Amazing.     ~Movie: Arsenic and Old Lace

View of Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge

You're in Brooklyn

Sunrise on the bridge
light splashing through the arches
joggers chasing dreams

~ Haiku: Brooklyn Bridge by Laurence Overmire

Since the bridge was completed in 1883, the idea of illegally selling it has become the ultimate example of persuasion. A good salesman could sell it, a great swindler would sell it, and the perfect sucker would fall for the scam. ~ For You, Half Price – New York Times.

A view from the East River shores of Brooklyn

“The oddity of the thing today,” said Luc Sante, author of the book, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York,  “is not that there might have been con artists ready to see the bridge, but that there would have been suckers gullible enough and sufficiently well-heeled to fall for it.” ~ For You, Half Price – New York Times.

“Up to the 1920’s people were still trying,” Mr Nash said. “But it was a hard sale. Immigrants had become much more sophisticated and knowledgeable, and by that time the processors at Ellis Island were handing out cards or booklets saying, You can’t buy public buildings or streets. These shifts explain why the Brooklyn Bridge is the span associated with swindles; the city’s other bridges were built after the high tide of gullibility had already begun slipping away.” ~ For You, Half Price – New York Times.

re: the above... Is this reflection for sale?

They may call me a ‘rube’ and a ‘hick’. I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it. ~ Will Rogers

Strolling from Manhattan...

In the 19th century, the bridge was one of the two best-known symbols of America, the other being the Statue of Liberty. ~ Kathleen Hulser, the public historian at the New York Historical Society

Downtown Manhattan from the Bridge; Statue of Liberty - in the far off distance

Another NY icon - the yellow cab

If you’ve been a rover
Journey’s end lies over the Brooklyn Bridge
Don’t let no one tell you
I’ve been tryin’ to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge

All the folks in Manhattan are sad
’cause they look at her and wish they had
The good old Brooklyn Bridge.

~Lyrics: Frank Sinatra sings ‘The Brooklyn Bridge’

Untried expedient, untried; then tried;
way out; way in; romantic passageway
first seen by the eye of the mind,
then by the eye. O steel! O stone!
Climactic ornament, a double rainbow,
as if inverted by French perspicacity,
John Roebling’s monument,
German tenacity’s also;
composite span—an actuality.

~ Poem: Granite and Steel, Marianne Moore

East River against the Arch

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,–

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path–condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

~ Poem: To Brooklyn Bridge, Hart Crane

Annie Hall: Do you love me?

Alvy Singer: Love is too weak a word for what I feel – I luuurve you, you know, I loave you, I luff you, two F’s, yes I have to invent, of course I – I do, don’t you think I do?

~ Words spoken near the Brooklyn Bridge. From the movie: Annie Hall

View of the Bridge from Dumbo

View from the Manhattan Bridge

The cables that hold up (the Brooklyn Bridge) on big stone piers are beautiful and not hidden. It’s metal in your face taking traditional material and putting it to use in a way that you can see what it can do.  ~ Alan Goodheart

A collection of love locks like the ones found in Paris, Budapest, and Seoul are starting to pile up on the New York City landmark. ~newyork.cbslocal.com

Whenever I think of yesterday,
I close my eyes and see,
That place Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge
That will always be home to me.
It’ll always be home to me.

~ Lyrics: Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge, Art Garfunkel

Postcards from the Edge… of the Manhattan Bridge

Though it was built after the Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge may be perceived as the middle child. Geographically located between them both, it is not as iconic and popular as the Brooklyn Bridge, further south; nor as artsy as the Williamsburg Bridge, to the north (my personal opinion, given its street art and hip connections). The Manhattan Bridge may seem understated yet it is on the cusp of cutting-edge cool. Its sweeping views of Manhattan and Brooklyn are better than those of its suspension-bridge-siblings and it fuses two of my favourite neighbourhoods together – Manhattan’s Chinatown and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn – both of which have made homes under the bridge’s overpass in their respective boroughs.

View of Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge (far distance) from Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO

View of Manhattan Bridge from Chinatown

On the Manhattan Bridge, looking at Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

If looking at a map of East Manhattan, from south to north, you’ll notice four main bridges that cross over the East River. In order, they are the Brooklyn Bridge, then the Manhattan Bridge; followed by the Williamsburg Bridge and 59th Street’s, Queensboro Bridge.

Having recently strolled along the northern and southern walk/bikeways of the Manhattan Bridge, more than anything else, I can easily attest to being mesmerized by the views offered from both sides.

From the graffitied rooftops of Chinatown, and their hanging laundry…

Business shirts and antennas

Graffiti and water towers

A Chinatown streetscape, from the northern side of the walk/bikeway

From Ground Zero towers and City Hall in the background, to laundry and graffiti on rooftops in foreground - from southern side of walk/bikeway

… to the vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge perfectly set as a backdrop, or against the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan…

A beautiful winter's day, further brightened up by the Brooklyn Bridge - from the southern side

Brooklyn Bridge makes for a perfect backdrop

Up above the traffic

…to the buzz of boat activity on the East River under winter’s sunlight…

Cargo...

Sightseeing boats, downtown

Cargo, from a northern perspective

Sightseeing boat, with Williamsburg Bridge in background

… to the skyline of DUMBO’s industrial buildings and its streetscapes, down below…

A glimpse of a mural on DUMBO's Water Street

Vespas and industrial buildings

DUMBO's rooftops against the Williamsburg Bridge, on the northern side

Rooftops and patios from the southern side of the Manhattan Bridge

View of the Empire–Fulton Ferry Park in DUMBO

… the views from this bridge are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and enjoyed photographing.

Not only that, but the bridge has no air of pretension… perhaps due to the lack of tourists and crowds (unlike Brooklyn Bridge), which makes for a pleasurable walk across, no matter if you are walking to/from Chinatown or DUMBO. Both neighbourhoods are cool and understated in their own right, just like the bridge that connects them.

Not a bad way to see the Empire State Building. Framed daily, in DUMBO

This is DUMBO! Not many streetscapes can compare to this one

This part of Chinatown, clustered under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Street vendors, setting up shop under the Bridge's Overpass, in Chinatown

The Manhattan Bridge was opened in December of 1909, and was the last of the three suspension bridges built to span the East River (after the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges). Since 1982, it has been undergoing a Reconstruction Program at a cost of $834 million that includes rehabilitation of its roadways, subway tracks, walkways, bikeways, replacement of its 628 bridge suspenders and restoration of the Arch and Colonnade that make for a grand entrance/exit on its Manhattan side. The project is expected to be completed in 2013.

Construction signage that pulls at heart strings

Interior rejuvenation

Barricades either left over from New Year's Eve, or for the construction works

That said, it is easy not to notice the construction going on as your eye is dragged across to the views of the East River and its shoreline. Depending which walkway you choose to stroll or cycle along, a vista of either one of those aforementioned bridges will certainly attract your attention. The construction also means that it is easier to use the walk/bikeways simultaneously (usually separate), given the changing construction detours. Surprisingly, bikers and walkers are very respectful of one another, made easier given passersby are frequent, yet minimal in number. (This has been my experience, anyway).

You can ride your bike...

...or you can walk your bike.

No matter what, walkers and cyclists can co-exist on the same walk/bikeway

Next time you’re in New York, make sure to take a strolling trip from East Manhattan to Brooklyn (or v.v.) over the Manhattan Bridge. You won’t be disappointed.

A part of the Brooklyn Bridge, framed

At the base of the Bridge, at Empire-Fulton Ferry Park in Dumbo

Turning to a New Year, and thank you to…

“Every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca

Well, it was a wonderful way to see in the New Year – the weather in New York was comfortably chilly, which made for an even more enjoyable night out sans any sign of a cold snap, slush or snow. Relaxing with excellent company over a bountiful dinner against pristine, million dollar views of Manhattan was pure indulgence, as was the endless champagne sipping, midnight strolling and fireworks watching. Welcome twentytwelve!

Such a good start to 2012 was further enhanced by two fellow bloggers,  Pleasantries & Pit Bulls and lpphotosblog, who have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. It’s an honour to be recognised by such thoughtful and inspiring authors+photographers in this way and I thank them both for giving me this New Year’s present!

As I recently posted on this award, I’d like to dedicate this post to the two blogs as my token of thanks. It is a showcase of images from New York that I have entitled, Turning to a New Year. From the lights of Brooklyn and Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, to the perfect day that became New Year’s Day, the photos provide a night & day glimpse of how New York celebrated from another vantage point (that didn’t include a ball drop). A fellow New Yorker, I hope lpphotosblog will recognise some of the vistas.

Seeing as it is New Year’s Day and I do not have a list of resolutions to share, I’ve interspersed quotes about the present moment in response to the recent post by Pleasantries & Pit Bulls: Resolutions: Friend or Foe?

All this good fortune combined has been a fine way to start off the brand new year and I extend the very best wishes to everyone for 2012. Enjoy!

“There’s no time like the present.” ~ Proverb

Views and drinks at Bubby's in Dumbo, Brooklyn on NYE (2011).

“The meeting of two eternities, the past and future….is precisely the present moment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau  

A night time stroll by the Manhattan Bridge with Williamsburg Bridge in background, and Empire State to left.

“People are always asking about the good old days.  I say, why don’t you say the good now days?” ~ Robert M. Young

...Past the Manhattan Bridge and into the bright lights of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ~ George Orwell

Off to Brooklyn Heights to watch the fireworks. Moonlit ferry at Statue of Liberty, far left.

“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

The decorated Empire State and Brooklyn Bridge, as seen from Brooklyn Heights.

“The living moment is everything.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Happy New Year! 12am fireworks

“No yesterdays are ever wasted for those who give themselves to today.”  ~ Brendan Francis

Fireworks from afar...

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Though clear enough to see their beautiful colours....

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”  ~ Cherokee Indian Proverb

... that vividly reflected off the water.

“The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Starting off the New Year with a walk over the Manhattan Bridge, New Year's Day (2012)...

“The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” ~ L. Thomas Holdcroft

...and witnessing the effects of the past evening's festivities.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

"The sun is shining, the weather is sweet..." Bob Marley.

“Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by so quick you can hardly catch it going.” ~ Tennessee Williams

A swift capture through the bridge's grills of a sightseeing ferry -a perfect day for it.

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Never-seen-before-road-signage.

“I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough.” ~ Albert Einstein

The Manhattan Bridge walk ends in Dumbo. A mural graces a wall on Water Street.

“Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Curbed Xmas trees outside an art gallery.

“If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine.” ~ Morris West

The view from Brooklyn Bridge Park is simply stunning.

“If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.  If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.” ~ Senegalese Proverb

Quiet contemplation - Brooklyn Bridge to left, Manhattan Bridge to right.

A jug fills drop by drop. ” ~ Buddha

Meaningful message on nearby scaffolding...

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Families gathering by the water's edge (Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, by day).

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~ Buddha

"Jane's Carousel" against the Manhattan Bridge.

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

And then, a leisurely walk back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge!

Chinatown’s Underbelly @ The Manhattan Bridge

My family’s heritage is Russian and from an early age I was learning Russian, speaking Russian, eating Russian dishes. Both of my parents were not, however, born in Russia. My mum was born in Harbin, China; my dad was born in Lindau, Germany; my siblings and I were born in Sydney, Australia. Alongside the Russian influences, I also learnt German in high school and enjoyed a lot of great Chinese food.

Chinese Lanterns

As a kid, I remember frequenting our favourite restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown, BBQ King. The jolly round owner would greet us upon arrival with open arms and ensure we were seated straight away.  By no means a fancy dining spot, furnished in plastic and imitation wood paneling, we loved the food there and would order dishes without needing to glance at the menu: fried salt & pepper squid, sweet & sour pork, stuffed bean curd, Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, Singapore noodles, roast duck (that was my choice).

Sometimes we’d cave and take a peek at the ‘Chef’s Suggestions’, perhaps ordering a plate of sizzling Mongolian beef or salt & pepper pork. It really depended on how hungry we were and whether we were accompanied by friends, who’d bestow their favourites on the food order.

Hanging Roast Ducks

When not dining out, mum would make sure we had staples from the local Asian supermarket to enjoy at home. She’d make a weekly shopping trip and bring home a selection of goods: packs of steamed pork buns, jars of preserved radish in chilli soy sauce, fresh tofu that she’d later fry up with bok choy, and/or a sponge cake that we’d enjoy for dessert. I also fondly recall eating Haw flakes. I’d peel away the pink paper wrapper from around the stout roll, separate each flake, then pop them – one by one – into my mouth. They tasted like raisins or some other kind of dried fruit and I just loved them.

Steamed Buns

Fast forward a number of years and based in New York, I have indulged in a great deal of Chinese food, however it has never measured up to the standard of those BBQ King dishes. Perhaps it is because I associate them with a feeling of nostalgia, or maybe it is simply down to the dishes being prepared differently in Sydney. Whatever the reason, I am always happy to enjoy a good Chinese meal and living in a city where it is de rigueur to order take-out and have it delivered, I enjoy an occasional visit to Manhattan’s Chinatown to simply wander the food stalls and be part of the market buzz.

Abundant Produce

Chinatown (City Hall in background)

Now, I am definitely not referring to dodging the tourists on Canal Street, in search of fake Gucci this, and faux Burberry that. Nor am I referring to taking a stroll along the stretch of Bowery, a haven for traffic jams, and home to kitschy storefronts selling all sorts of random paraphernalia. I am talking about the calmer part of Chinatown that is centered around and under the Manhattan Bridge, running along and off of East Broadway in the Lower East Side.

East Broadway is also known as ‘Fuzhou’ Street

Shopping under the Manhattan Bridge

Many of the newer Chinese immigrants that have settled here hail from Fujian province (as opposed to the Cantonese) and East Broadway has been dubbed ‘Fuzhou Street’ after the province’s capital. There is the rare tourist to be found amongst many Chinese locals, buying produce from the dozens of outdoor stalls ladened with fresh fruits and vegetables – persimmons, Asian pears, Durian fruit, oranges, apples, fresh greens; fishmongers and butcher’s stores  interspersed between them.

Asian pears, persimmons, oranges

Fresh Greens

Live CrabsWhat I like about this part of Chinatown is that I feel it is as authentic to China as I am going to get in Manhattan. Never mind that I cannot read any of the characters plastered all over the stores and buildings, nor have I been in awe of any Chinese architecture (because there is none). It’s just that the streetscape feels like it could be set in another country altogether – and for a while I am transported out of the norm.

Character Decoration

Butcher’s Shop

Chinese Newspapers

DVD Store

 Side by side the fresh produce markets are DVD stores, dumpling houses, electronic game repair booths, hair salons, restaurants, herbal stores selling all sorts of dried stuffs, beauty suppliers, bubble tea cafes…. and surprisingly, a number of wedding dress stores. I read recently that:

 Luxury wedding ceremonies are traditional among the people of Fuzhou (capital of Fujian province). During Chinatown’s wedding season, which runs between late September and Chinese New Year, immigrants speaking the Fuzhou dialect host about 1,500 banquets and generate about $20 million dollars in restaurant business… In the late 1980’s there were no specialized bridal shops… By 2004, the number of bridal shops had increased to thirty-two, many owned by Fujianese. *

Dried Fish for Sale

Chinese Herbs

There is one food store that I always visit – ‘New York Supermarket Inc’. Located at #75 East Broadway, it sits right under one of the Bridge’s underside archways. The complex is always bustling, with the sound level further amplified by the subway rattle overhead – I like it for its commotion alone. That said, I always end up browsing the market’s aisles and leaving with a bag full of different Asian foods to try.

Entrance to New York Supermarket Inc (right)

Packets and packets of foods

I have tried the roll with greens – sauteed bok choy on a soft sesame bun.

Just like my mum, I love to buy steamed pork buns and sponge cakes. I do have a few of my own finds that I count on as well including (though not limited to): coconut creme that my husband churns into ice cream; Japanese mochi balls, made of glutinous rice, rolled into balls and filled with red bean, sesame, taro or peanut paste;vermicelli rice noodles; lychee gummi candy; and, roasted seaweed. Hardly adventurous, I know, as I do pass by the rows of canned quail eggs, jars of sliced sour bamboo shoots and packets of preserved duck eggs and think, “Should I?” But I always chicken out – partly from fear of trying them; partly because I have no clue as to what I would prepare with the ingredients. Unlike eating, cooking isn’t my forte.

Street Vendors at Forsyth Market

A little further up the road from the supermarket is the popular Forsyth Market, located under another of the Manhattan Bridge archways. Though I do not shop there myself, it is a busy part of the Chinatown scene where the vendors sell produce at exceptionally low prices. Employing a “low-margin, high-volume model”, many residents and local restaurants purchase produce here daily. If you want to be served, you have to get in line. Yes, it’s that busy sometimes.

Lines at the Market

Unfortunately the market vendors here are under continual speculation and subject to ticket sweeps by the city authorities and city regulators. Without going into too much detail about it, you may read more about it here. Street Vendor Project: Spoiled !.

Forsyth Market: Cheap Greens

Given this and coupled with the spike in rents that store owners have recently complained about in the area, it is no small wonder that there has been a steady relocation of business to the Chinatown’s situated in Flushing, Queens and Brooklyn.

Fuzhou Supermarket with Manhattan Bridge in distance

 No doubt, I’ll continue supporting this part of Manhattan’s Chinatown – not only because I like it for its vibe and food selection, but it is easily accessible over the Williamsburg Bridge by foot, which makes for a great day of food shopping.

My Japanese mochi treat

That said, I will need to make a trip to the other boroughs to experience their Chinatowns. I will post on those after I’ve visited them.

Beautiful Manhattan Bridge


*Quote from: “The New Chinese America: class, economy, and social hierarchy.” By Xiaojian Zhao