I recommend that visitors to New York, if they have time, should escape the more manic tourist attractions to discover quieter parts of the city. It's not only nice to get away from the crowds, for a change, but also to see how New Yorkers live and work. The far east side of midtown, from Beekman Place at E. 51st St. south to E. 42nd Street, is a diverse and intriguing oasis of quiet streets, spectacular housing complexes, and the international community around the U.N.
View Larger Map Distance: approx. 2 miles.
Note: This walk can function as a connector walk between two previous walks created for Walking Off the Big Apple - the Greta Garbo walk (that begins on E. 52nd St.) and the Raymond Hood architecture walk (picking up at the Daily News Building on E. 42nd St.)
Begin at 6 train subway stop at 51st St.
Walk north to 52rd St. and then east for lunch at ZipBurger (at 2nd Ave.), one of the best hamburger joints in the neighborhood (vegetarian friends like the salmon burger), and then continue walking east. Turn south on 1st Ave., walk east on E. 51st. to Beekman Place. (Or, head all the way east on E. 52nd to The Campanile, once home to Greta Garbo, and come back.)
In Auntie Mame, the 10-year-old orphan Patrick Dennis is taken to live with his peculiar aunt at her apartment at 3 Beekman Place. The quiet street of only two blocks and surrounding area is home to old New York families and several diplomatic consulates.
At the south end of Beekman Place, walk west back to 1st Avenue and proceed south on 1st Avenue next to the United Nations complex.
The United Nations complex, built in 1949 and 1950 on seventeen acres, symbolizes international utopianism. Like Rockefeller Center, completed a decade before, the buildings were designed by an international committee of architects. The main building housing the Secretariat is based on a design by Le Corbusier. In lieu of a physical tour, while preferable, I recommend seeing Sydney Pollack's 2005 movie The Interpreter for a look inside the complex.
Directly across from the United Nations, Ralph Bunche Park is a small oasis of greenery. Walk up the granite staircase next to the Isaiah Wall (with its "beat their swords into plowshares" quotation) to the Tudor City Apartments.
These 12 buildings in the Tudor revival style were built in years 1925-28 as rental units to keep middle class residents from fleeing to the suburbs. Designed by architects Fred French and H. Douglas Ives, the city within a city served to clean up the area's worst slums as an early example of urban renewal. In 1988 the Landmarks Preservation Committee designated Tudor City as an historic district.
Bounded by 43th Street. to the north and 40th St. to the south, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, the Tudor City complexes, unified in their dark brown bricks and variations on English Tudor ornamentation, share small peaceful parks. Charleston Heston, by the way, once lived in Tudor City. (Tudor City sites here and here for more info.)
Walk down the staircase on either side of 42nd Street to the sidewalk below and proceed west along 42nd St. The Ford Foundation at 321 East 42nd Street, designed by Roche Dinkeloo in 1967, is considered one of the best buildings of the late International Style, famous for its early use of the spacious interior glass atrium.
At the end of the walk, 42nd Street awaits. Continue west toward Grand Central Terminal where, presumably, you'll once again join the crowds.
See related posts:
Classic New York: A Walk, and a Map
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis: A Coda, on Bank Street
Classic New York: 59th and Fifth: A Slideshow
Classic New York: The Algonquin
Classic New York: Times Square
Classic New York: A Visit to Macy's, in April
Classic New York: Henri Bendel
Classic New York: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis
The Liberation Theology of Mame Dennis
Grand Central Theatre, and A New Walk Begins
and from September 2009 - Walking for Peace in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.