Skip to main content

After the Madoff Hearing, Reflections on the Pickpockets of Five Points, and A Trip to the Chopsticks Store

While standing with the pack of reporters, camera people, and producers facing the door of the Federal Courthouse yesterday morning, waiting for signs of movement in the Madoff case, I would occasionally turn around and watch people exercising in a group class in an outdoor playground in Columbus Park. The slow synchronized movements of dozens of people and the sounds of traditional Chinese music that played on tape made a good contrast to the media frenzy on the sidewalk.

Yet, the very place where these exercisers waved and stretched their arms and legs on a morning in a park, so peaceful a scene, was once one of the most notorious slums in New York. Known as Five Points, signifying the intersection of what is now Worth, Baxter, Mulberry, Mosco, and the defunct Little Water streets, the neighborhood's chief characteristics included desperate poverty, environmental degradation, crammed immigrant housing, poor sanitation, casual and revenge murders, exploitation, and education in the arts of the pickpocket. Martin Scorsese based Gangs of New York on historic events in this era. I believe I've also recommended before Timothy J. Gilfoyle's A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York, a fascinating look at this milieu through the diary of George Appo.

Up the street was Mulberry Bend, another den of depravity that Progressive-era reformer Jacob Riis made famous in a series of photographs in The Shame of Our Cities. One might say the neighborhood's old traditions came back for a day with the court appearance of Bernard Madoff, pickpocket extroardinaire.

The area has long given over to a prosperous Chinatown, and so I felt I could safely find my way to Yunhong Chopsticks Shop. Since I frequently order Asian food for delivery, and I remembered that I had some leftover chicken cashew from Rim Thai Cuisine on W. 23rd. St. (good food, water features, good prices, nice presentation) from the night before, I decided to buy some chopsticks. When I eat Asian food now at home, forks will not do. The boutique at 50 Mott St., the first of its kind, features a variety of sticks in a range of prices, including some beautiful high-end gift sets and chopsticks that say Happy Birthday in Chinese. I selected two pair of wooded ones with bright green and blue tops, and after paying for my purchase, I walked a long winding path home.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple: Mosco St. and Yunhong Chopsticks Shop. Chinatown, New York.

Comments

Kitty said…
I'm not too familiar with the lower downtown area at all. I love the area though.

There's a certain vibe with the narrow, sometimes winding streets and tall older buildings.

Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk. One such essay, " Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer , Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

25 Radical Things to Do in Greenwich Village

A list of 25 things to Do in Greenwich Village with history of protest, old cafes, and signs of change. Hipstamatic iPhone images of contemporary Greenwich Village by Walking Off the Big Apple (Revised and updated.) Flipping through  Greenwich Village: A Photographic Guide by Edmund T. Delaney and Charles Lockwood with photographs by George Roos, a second, revised edition published in 1976, it’s easy to compare the black and white images with the look of today’s neighborhood and see how much the Village has changed. A long shot photograph of Washington Square taken up high from an apartment north of the park, and with the looming two towers of the World Trade Center off to the distant south in the background, reveals a different landscape than what we would encounter today.    On the north side of the park, an empty lot and two small buildings have since given way to NYU’s Kimmel Center and a new NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Center Life. The Judson Memorial Church

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

From Penn Station to New York Landmarks: Measuring Walking Distance and Time in Manhattan

(revised 2017) How long does it take to walk from Penn Station/Madison Square Garden to well-known destinations in Manhattan? What are the best walking routes ? What if I don't want to see anything in particular but just want to walk around? In addition to the thousands of working commuters from the surrounding area, especially from New Jersey and Long Island who arrive at Penn Station via New Jersey Transit or the Long Island Rail Road, many people arrive at the station just to spend time in The City. Some have questions. Furthermore, a sporting event may have brought you to Madison Square Garden (above Penn Station), and you want to check out what the city offers near the event. This post if for you.  The map below should help you measure walking distances and times from the station to well-known destinations in Manhattan - Bryant Park , the Metropolitan Museum of Art , the Empire State Building , Times Square , Rockefeller Center , Washington Square Park , the High Line

The High Line and Chelsea Market: A Good Pairing for a Walk

(revised 2017) The advent of spring, with its signs of growth and rebirth, is apparent both on the High Line , where volunteers are cutting away the old growth to reveal fresh blooms, and inside the Chelsea Market, where new tenants are revitalizing the space. A walk to take in both can become an exploration of bounty and surprise, a sensual walk of adventure and sustenance. A good pairing for a walk: The High Line and Chelsea Market Walking the High Line for a round trip from Gansevoort to W. 30th and then back again adds up to a healthy 2-mile walk. Regular walkers of the elevated park look for an excuse to go there. Especially delightful is showing off the park, a model of its kind, to visitors from out of town. A stroll through Chelsea Market. Time check. If you haven't stopped into Chelsea Market lately, you may want to take a detour from the High Line at the stairs on W. 16th St. and walk through the market for a quick assessment or a sampling. Among the sampli

25 Things to Do Near the American Museum of Natural History

After visiting the American Museum of Natural History, explore attractions on the Upper West Side or in Central Park. Visitors to New York often run around from one major tourist site to the next, sometimes from one side of the city to the other, and in the process, exhaust themselves thoroughly. Ambitious itineraries often include something like coffee in the Village in the morning, lunch near MoMA, a couple of hours in the museum, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in the afternoon, cocktails at the midtown hotel, a quick dinner, and then a Broadway show. It's a wonder people don't pass out at the theater. While sitting on the steps of the American Museum of History, consider exploring the Upper West Side and nearby sites of interest in Central Park. There's a better way to plan a New York trip. Consider grouping attractions together geographically. Several posts on this site address this recommended approach. The Wild West of the Tecumseh Playground Groupin

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on East 52nd Street

"-S'il vous plaît… dessine-moi un mouton!" Like many others, I learned French in school by reading  Le Petit Prince,  the charming and thoughtful story written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. So I was delighted, even in a child-like way, to come upon a charmer of a building, 3 East 52nd Street, and to see on the exterior a plaque honoring the French author and aviator. According to Christopher Gray, in an April 2001 NYT Streetscapes article about the building , the organization La Section Americaine du Souvenir Francais put up this plaque memorializing Saint-Exupery. It's not where he lived, as I shall explain. During the early years of WWII, from January 1941 and April 1943, the writer lived much of the time in a penthouse at 240 Central Park South and in a rented mansion in the village of Asharoken on the north shore of Long Island. He also spent some time in Quebec City. He wrote The Little Prince in the Long Island mansion during the summer a

Places from The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath's New York, and a Map

After her long night with her friend Doreen and Lenny the DJ, Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar , decides to walk back home to her hotel, the Amazon, and pulls a New York street map out of her pocket. Calculating she was "exactly forty-three blocks by five blocks away" from her hotel, she sets out on foot uptown. (p. 15 Bantam Windstone paperback edition, 1981) If the Amazon is based on the Barbizon Hotel at Lexington and 63rd, then her starting point could have been around 20th and 8th Avenue (or, even possibly, uptown on the Upper West Side). I don't think Plath intended this to be precisely autobiographical. A walk from the Village to anywhere around Lexington and 63rd would make a nice hike, probably in the neighborhood of 3.5 miles. In a real life incident from June of 1953, Plath tried to track down poet Dylan Thomas outside his favorite bar, probably the White Horse Tavern on Hudson (marked on the map), and she could have walke