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A Walk in Battery Park City's North End, and a New Arcade

Battery Park City, stretching along the shore on the city's far southwestern side, may be tidy, clean, slick, and contemporary, but as a whole, the city built on landfill is not a warm and fuzzy place. Rather isolated from the rest of the New York universe by the wide West Street, the uniform residential towers and landscaped gardens of Battery Park City present themselves as a sort of quiet corporate suburb. While the views along the river here open up thrilling vistas, there's not a ton of excitement on the city's streets. So when popular restaurants choose to locate here, a major hotel opens with a collection of stunning contemporary art, and a fetching arcade attracts pedestrians and the illusion of street life, it's worth a walk to check it out.

On Vesey Street, looking north into the arcade

This suggested self-guided walk, the sort always improved by personal variations, begins near the E train stop on Church Street, continues west along the makeshift passageway of Vesey Street next to the World Trade Center site, and then over West Street via the pedestrian bridge. Once back at street level, you'll see an entrance to the World Financial Center on the left, just past the American Express offices. Across the street, on the north side, Goldman Sachs has its offices. As reported in Michael Kimmelman's review in The New York Times, the financial giant commissioned Harvard architecture professor Preston Scott Cohen to design a canopy to cover a passageway on the west side of its building. Kimmelman describes the resulting light-filled arcade (as shown above and below) "as inspired as the nave of a great Gothic cathedral." (See "A Canopy as Social Cathedral," The New York Times, June 4, 2012.) Well, that's high praise indeed.

North side of arcade on Murray Street, looking south.
Shake Shack is on the right.
In addition to walking, bicycling is a good way to visit Battery Park City 

Eateries in the arcade include Shake Shack, Francois Payard Bakery, Pick A Bagel, and Harry's Italian Pizza Bar. Outdoor tables provide a sense of street life, encouraging more people to congregate in the passageway. A Regal Cinema is here also. Around the corner, Blue Smoke, the popular barbecue restaurant, has opened a location. Yes, it feels like the making for a bustling New York street, but please don't confuse this place for a real street. The arcade, while operated as a public space, is nevertheless under the control of a corporate entity, and you will be reminded of this should you try to take a photograph in the middle of the arcade. Snapping pix of the passageway at either end is perfectly fine, as you'll be on city streets, but not in the middle. (Security personnel also frequently intervene in picture-taking at several of the city's other privately own public spaces.) Oh, well. On a nice day, it's easy enough to order lunch to go and then wander over to a park bench next to the river. But when it's raining, it's more pleasant to sit in the arcade.

The nearby pier makes it convenient to travel from Battery Park to other parts of the city.

The arcade also offers an entrance to the new Conrad New York. The former Embassy Suites has been totally made over into a futuristic suite hotel of tomorrow. Wander into the hotel lobby to gawk at the jaw-dropping 13-story Sol LeWitt tapestry art in the dizzying atrium, Loopy Doopy Blue and Purple (1999), and the equally enormous tubular sculpture by Monica Ponce De Leon titled Veils. The hotel's impressive contemporary art collection continues into the guest rooms, lobby spaces, the minimalist first floor bar, and the rooftop bar named after the LeWitt tapestry.

After leaving the arcade, a walk in Battery Park City's North End could include a stop at the terrace overlooking the neighborhood ball park, followed by a stroll through Teardrop Park, a visit to Poets House, a look at the local branch of the NYPL, and then a walk along the river.

Teardrop Park, Battery Park City


New York Public Library branch, Battery Park City

Le Pain Quotidien, at the corner of River Terrace and Vesey Street, includes an outdoor seating area tucked into a well-designed mini arcade. Across the way from the cafe on the south side of the street is the Irish Hunger Memorial, a moving memorial topped with natural features from the landscape in western Ireland. From there, it's easy enough to continue walking south to the North Cove to look at boats, or head back into town on Vesey and cross back over the great divide known as West Street.

Le Pain Quotidien, corner River Terrace and Vesey Street



View Wanderings in Battery Park City, the North End in a larger map

Resources:
website for Conrad New York

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from June 13, 2012.





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