June 6, 2008

The East River and Roosevelt Island Walk: Part One, The East River, Manhattan, From 86th to 59th St.


I thought I had planned a pleasant walk yesterday, from Gracie Mansion and Carl Schurtz Park at around 86th Street and then south along the East River to the Queensboro Bridge. I wanted to spend some time in the park, one of the city's oldest, with graceful trees and Calvert Vaux's artful landscaping. I also wanted to see the river from there and the pleasant view of the Triborough Bridge to the north and Roosevelt Island's north point, with its lighthouse, to the east. I enjoyed my time in the park and all the views, but the stroll south along the East River left something to be desired.



As I walked southward along the river, the stroll that began as a pleasant outing in the park descended by increments into a mistake. With the East River flowing on one side and the vehicular traffic of FDR drive flowing north in the lane to my right (as in the image at top), and with the sun beating down on a minimalist long stretch of walkway, I started feeling trapped, dizzy, and uncomfortable. The sound of the traffic on the FDR was very loud, and my nostrils started filling with the smell of exhaust. I was presented on a couple of occasions with the means of escape in the form of a walkway leading back toward more inland streets, but as I'm an optimist, I kept thinking things would get better as I approached the bridge. They did not. As I walked farther, the new buildings along the Upper East Side grew more menacing, those cranes, you know, and the massive stone walls that line the highway looked like medieval fortresses. The sounds grew louder, the infrastructure heavier, and a few of the passersby made me nervous. By the end, all I could think about was how well I could swim and how maybe all these people working in the nearby hospitals could help me.

Close to the bridge, I found a walkway to cross over the FDR, and then I walked west on E. 60th Street. It's a wild urban landscape near the bridge - lots of clanging noises, industrial shapes and machine parts. At 1st Avenue I stopped for a tall decaf vanilla iced coffee latte at the place where one can buy a tall decaf vanilla iced coffee latte. As I sat outside in an industrial chic sitting area next to the cafe, I looked across the street at the colorful townhouses that line 1st Ave. I rested, and I was prepared to call it a day. Then I looked up and saw a Roosevelt Island Tram car descending overhead. Perhaps, the day's walk is not a loss, I thought. Redemption, after all, begins with an ascent.

Image: East River walkway, the descent.
Next up: An aerial ascent, and a walk south to the Renwick Ruins (Smallpox Hospital) on Roosevelt Island. A map is in the works.

More images of the walk on the East River at Flickr WOTBA.

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