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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tremont Ave

The Bronx generally doesn't get a lot of love among the lots of the folks that like to walk around town, which is a shame - the borough more than holds its own in terms of history, architecture, and just general interesting stuff to see.

Four others and I walked the 7-mile length of Tremont Ave this Saturday, the longest street in the Bronx. It's actually slightly debatable as to whether or not it's actually the longest street. Bruckner Blvd (which runs underneath the length of the Bruckner Expressway) is a bit longer, although it's split into two parts, with a half-mile gap over Westchester Creek that's only transversed by the Expressway. In addition, if you separate West Tremont from East Tremont (which are one contiguous street, similar to say, East 14th and West 14th in Manhattan), East Tremont (by far the longer) also loses its "Longest Street" status to Boston Road.

Regardless of the technicalities it's still a great walk, and offers a wonderful overview of the borough. I highly recommend it as a starting point for anyone who wants to get to know the Bronx. Starting at Roberto Clemente Park by the water, is goes for one block before turning into one the West Bronx's ubiquitous staircases. After it spits you back out up on Sedgewick Avenue, it winds through the hills of University Heights, before being deposited into a bustling commercial thoroughfare through the heart of the Hispanic Bronx. It gradually becomes more industrial and much less bustling, skirts the northern edge of Parkchester, and heads down into Throggs neck where it becomes a nice remnant of an older New York, one that was mostly populated by the children of the immigrant groups of the previous great wave, whose local business lined streets like Tremont Avenue. The last few blocks are residential, and it ends at the local wedding hall, Marina del Ray.

Tremont Avenue actually only passes through 3 Census Tracts - BX53.02 where it starts, BX198 near Westchester Square, and BX132 in Throggs Neck, forming the border of tracts the rest of the way. The others listed below are the tracts we went through to get from the #4 train to the beginning of the street, and from the end of the street to the #6 train (as are the last three neighborhoods listed).

Neighborhoods: South Bronx, East Bronx, Morris Heights, University Heights, Mt. Hope, Tremont, East Tremont, West Farms, Parkchester, Castle Hill, Westchester Village, Schuylerville, Throggs Neck, Country Club, Spencer Estates, Pelham Bay.

Tracts Walked: BX217.01, BX215.02, BX215.01, BX205, BX53.02, BX198, BX132, BX118, BX130, BX158, BX162, BX160, BX274, BX276

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gay Bars and Mosques - Yawn

Now I'm sure Greg Gutfeld is currently congratulating himself on being real clever; coming up with what he supposes is a way to beat those crazy Muslims at their whole tolerency "hey we have first amendment rights too" game by proposing a gay bar (supposedly catering to Muslims, however that would work) nearby the Cordoba Initiative's community center downtown - you know the "9/11 Mosque."

While this whole thing obviously reeks of "let's drive traffic to my site" just in case he's actually serious and thinks that anyone here will care, I invite him to head down to the Corner of Washington Place and 6th Avenue, where he'll find the NYU Islamic Center located in the basement of St. Joseph's Catholic Church (another religion not really known for "looking kindly on homosexuality"). I then invite him to walk one block down Washington Place to Christopher Street and grab a drink at the Stonewall Inn.

Some people just do not get this town.

Neighborhoods: Greenwich Village

Tracts Walked: M71

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've been on a bit of a Queens kick lately, and when there's someone with a car who wants to walk Census Tracts with me, I'm taking the opportunity to go somewhere I can't get to easily by subway or bike. These two things led me out to the Laurelton and Cambria Heights neighborhoods in the Southeastern corner of Queens.

I really don't much to say. Far Eastern Queens, in most ways, is more Nassau than Astoria (or even Flushing), and the only way you know you've crossed the border into Valley Stream is that the street signs have a different font. The only person I've ever known that's lived in this neighborhood did so precisely because it was as close to Long Island as he could get and still be within the city limits, which was legally required by his City Government job. Houses are lovely, single-family, and mostly suburban-style detached; the foreclosure crisis of Southeast Queens seems to not have made it this far over.

After a bit we walk by Montefiore Cemetery (Rabbi Schneerson's place of burial). I was expecting some local Chabad infrastructure around the cemetery - maybe a tzotzke store, maybe a kosher restaurant, maybe even a small hotel - but all there is is a small, nondescript Chabad House. Despite the rain, and being halfway down the block, I actually get an "excuse me - you are Jewish?" from a guy leaving the building. The guy's Yiddish was better than his English - very strange for a young Chabadnick, who in this day and age almost all grow up learning the the local vernacular language as a first, or at least co-first, language.

Further north we come to Linden Blvd, which looks, well, pretty much like the rest of Linden Blvd looks throughout it's 6 miles in Brooklyn and 5 .5 miles in Queens. We stop to eat at a Haitian restaurant called Port-a-Prince. The place is somewhat schizophrenic - the interior is immaculate and looks like it could be any fancy French place in Manhattan, yet they give us plastic forks to eat with. Everyone in the place is speaking exclusively French Creole - to the point where I find myself ordering the "Poulet" and hoping for the best.

I'm rewarded. Not only is the food pretty good, in terms of "calories-per-dollar" this has got to be one of the greatest deals in the 5 boroughs - a giant heaping plate of rice, beans, salad and chicken fit for a meal for two, all for $6. I guess they save on the cutlery.

Neighborhoods: Laurelton, Cambria Heights
Tracts Walked: Q604, Q606, Q612, Q614, Q616.01, Q616.02, Q618, Q620, Q632, Q638, Q646, Q650