Running By

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As some of my friends from the broader online world know, I keep a photo journal of my runs which I post in Instagram stories. This wasn’t a conscious decision really, just something I started doing.

During the worst months of the pandemic we all seemed pretty desperate for images of the outside world (I was enjoying posts from folks in Britain and Australia in particular) even if it was just daily stuff and I loved my view along the East River so much I thought others might too. So somehow taking some pictures along the way and posting them afterward became part of my running habit. Today’s post is a bit of a tribute to some of the urban history I have plucked along the way.

My early jogging attempts here in Manhattan took me through Carl Schurz Park and down the Eastside Esplanade along the river. I run with the urban scene of the FDR Drive to one side of me and the East River to the other – there are days when you would never know that an endless line of commuter cars is honking and belching along next to me so silvan are the water views.

The pool at 72nd just prior to opening last spring.

At about 72nd Street there is a park with one of the free city pools in it, the John Jay pool and playground there. I watched last spring as it was prepped for summer and then ultimately filled with the first of the throngs of folks that would come and line up during the hot summer days. At the foot of this park is an interesting old stone building and over time I realized that it had Eastside Settlement House etched in stone. As it happened I was reading about the charitable establishment which was located there in one of my books about the Red Cross Girls and I wrote about those books in a post that can be found here. (An excellent article on the history of the Settlement House can be found here and it notes an article from the Times which was called, Girls of Gentle Breeding Enjoy Unaccustomed Dances With Partners Not in Their Set.)

East Side Settlement House, as seen from the river side. Built in 1901.

In those early months of running the Esplanade was open all the way down the Eastside and I thought about someday getting enough miles under my belt to make it down to the Roosevelt Island tram at about 57th. Before my running got me down below 70th Street, the path was closed for repairs (sink holes are a very real problem) and my runs to the south were curtailed.

I continued my route along that part of the river as far as I could (the Esplanade dips down there and you are closer to the water which is nice, river smell for better or worse tends to waft there) which would take me past a ramshackle Con Ed building that appears to be entirely taken over by rats and pigeons. (I tremble to think of what must go on in its interior.)

Rat and pigeon infested Con Ed enclave in the east 70’s.

Over time I worked up to running up a long incline at about 82nd. When I began using an app (Strava) to as a GPS recording of my miles it informed me that this land bridge has a name, Jamie’s Bridge. I am told there is a plaque which I have yet to locate. I will update if I discover more about that.

A post could be devoted to the park itself which I have become very fond of – weekdays are largely given over to my fellow runners, ferry commuters, dog walkers (I give dogs some distance but New York City dogs are generally more interested in each other than me – while suburban dogs seem to be more interested in taking a bite out of me) make up the lion’s share of the denizens and, especially over the past two years, there are a number of people just walking or sitting outside. Some smoke (cigarettes and pot in almost equal measure) and others study their phones, still others just stare off. Weekends, as the weather warms, means the park plays host to a long line of birthday parties for gangs of small children. Shiny balloons staking the spot and declaring the age of the child in question – which seems to be 3 more often than not.

Hard to see here but here is a stationary bike and work out equipment stored here, as well as this tent which seems to serve as occasional home.

More miles and being curtailed to the south mean pushing north and at first I just ran up to the ferry. The New York ferries were one of my great pandemic discoveries and I am sad that in no way can I utilize them on my daily commute to 57th Street because I would enjoy it. Miles underfoot quickly took me a bit further to the waste station up near Asphalt Green recreational center. I was against this garbage facility when it was proposed to be built, but have to admit that they have kept the impact on the neighborhood low. Under this land bridge is a resident tent dweller who keeps a pile of workout equipment there. I have seen him tend it but never work out there.

Asphalt Green Recreational Center in Yorkville, NY.

Asphalt Green declares its history as the site of an asphalt plant from 1944-1968 in its prior life. In the late 70’s an effort was made to rehabilitate this derelict site and in 1984, several years before I became a Yorkville resident, this impressive gym and recreational center and playing fields opened. I ponder its service in the production of asphalt for all those years and what that may have been like and why they stopped as asphalt is still presumably needed.

The 96th Street entrance to the FDR always reminds me of trips to the airport and now the path to and from Jersey when I ride with Cash and Jeff – the human and doggie duo who have transported me during odd hours in recent months. Jeff usually takes us up to the George Washington Bridge so this leg of the run always makes me think about leaving town.

This quote was part of a temporary installation but it stayed with me. It is gone, but I still think about it when I run past this spot.

Eventually I found my way up to the Randall’s Island Bridge. Unlike most of the other bridges (all land bridges) on this route, this pretty blue-green bridge is very neat and tidy, its underbelly in excellent repair which I note each time. For a long time this was the outer reaches of my run as it then climaxed around the four mile mark. I consider eventually adding a run over this bridge to my route. It would be a not insubstantial addition as it has several levels of incline and the span of the bridge is considerable, over the river. I also think about taking Kim there on a walk when it gets a bit warmer. Playing fields, bike and running trails and who knows what else await us there when the time comes. I see kids heading over for early morning practice on weekday mornings.

The underside of the Randall’s Island Bridge.

Running in New Jersey near my mom (some posts have been devoted to that and can be found here and here) expanded my miles to more than five as curiosity encouraged me to further explore her area. That combined with a new closure to the south at 74th Street, has recently pushed me up even further to the area around 107th now. I am fascinated by this pier, Pier 107 CVII according to the sign on its side, which is just beautiful despite its derelict condition. I cannot help but imagine walking out on it and admiring the water views from there, or stopping to sit on one of the benches.

The once again derelict pier.

Built originally back in 1931 it serviced a now long forgotten industrial complex and Harlem Market which defined the area before it became more solidly residential. The Pier was originally converted to pedestrian use in the late 1980’s with an award winning restoration that was completed in 1991. I cannot imagine why it was allowed to deteriorate again. Just beyond it is this odd little dock which seems to have been part of it historically. A place for boats to unload or tie up briefly I assume.

The nearby dock or pier which seems to go along with it.

To the west I note this beautiful Art Deco building which appears to be home to the Department of Sanitation of all things. I wonder if the building is still employed for this purpose or if it has another use now and if all the original beauty has been removed from its interior.

Building is labeled Department of Sanitation in Art Deco writing across the front.

My run tops out here to achieve a total of about 5.5 miles and I head back to the park where I will loop myself past the Mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion. I have toured that (surprisingly intimate) historical wood frame home which has impressive river views from its perch at a high point in the park. Then it is a final check of the Peter Pan statue and surrounding area – one that Kim has been contemplating using in a story – some stretching and home again.

Peter Pan statue in Carl Schurz Park, the terminus point of my runs here in NYC.

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