They may look at you a little strange, knowing from old movies and television that Bellevue tends to serve as a code word for psychiatric care, but truly, walking to Bellevue on First Avenue and 27th Street and seeing the sights in and around the oldest public hospital in the United States is a great treat. You may want to hold off telling them that the trip will also include a walk over and under FDR Drive and a windy river walk on the East River to see massively-scaled modernist architecture and a ferry landing.
This suggested walk begins and ends in the curry-scented area around Lexington and E. 28th St. Proceed east on E 28th to 3rd Avenue, and then walk a block south. Head east on E. 27th. Keep going, and you'll walk through Bellevue South Park on the way to the hospital. Cross First Avenue and walk straight into the lobby of the Bellevue Hospital Ambulatory Care Building. What wonders!
The original impressive brick entrance of the old Bellevue Hospital is encased in a sleek curved atrium designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. It's like stumbling onto a bit of urban archaeology. Keep walking all the way to the back atrium, and you'll find on display a handsome black ambulance from 1898, a type of vehicle pioneered by Bellevue that changed the history of emergency care.
"Belle Vue" was named for an 18th century farm on this site, so to get a sense of the original "vue," a walk to the East River is necessary. This is the tricky part that may scare the out-of-town guests.
Walk along the ramp at the back of the hospital to E. 26th Street and then back to 1st Avenue. Locate E. 25th Street a block south and walk back to the river. Then walk on the pedestrian bridge over FDR Drive to what's known as Waterside Plaza and its looming brown cubed rectangle apartment buildings. The plaza views of the East River are stunning. The United Nations complex and the Queensboro Bridge are to the north, and the changing skyline of Long Island City is across the way. If you squint, you can make out the construction on the south end of Roosevelt Island. Walk down to the first level and then head north along the river past the Water Club and to E. 34th. Here you'll find the East River Ferry Landing.
After walking under FDR Drive a few short blocks, you and your friends can then bail out at around E. 37th Street, or better yet, catch the East River Ferry to one of its destinations. Once back home, your friends can enchant everyone with stories of their trip to New York: "Oh, yes, we also went to Bellevue."
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