Exploring the city from A to Z

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Battery Park City

When I was first doing research into Battery Park City, I stopped by the Battery Park City Authority site. I was surprised to see this as the first image on the page...

I wasn't sure if this was a good sign for my trip. It reminded me of the travel posters that hang in the New Zealand consulate in Flight of The Conchords. ("New Zealand - Don't expect too much. You will love it.")  Nevertheless, I was determined to explore this mini city on the Hudson.  

Battery Park City is named for neighboring Battery Park, although it doesn't really have much to do with the place. Where Battery Park has been around since 1623 (in its earliest incarnation as the park by the Dutch Fort Amsterdam), Battery Park City was built in the late 1970's and through the 1980's. The land on which it stands was excavated from dirt and rocks from the contsruction of the nearby World Trade Center. As I discovered on Wikipedia...

By the late 1950s, the once prosperous port area of downtown Manhattan was occupied by a number of dilapidated shipping piers, casualties of the rise of air transport. The initial proposal to reclaim this area through landfill was offered in the early 1960s by private firms and supported by the Mayor... in 1966 the governor unveiled the proposal for what would become Battery Park City. The creation of architect Wallace K Harrison, the proposal called for a 'comprehensive community' consisting of housing, social infrastructure and light industry.

After 9/11, more than half the area's residents moved away due to toxic dust, smoke, and debris from the adjacent Ground Zero. Temporarily reduced rents and government subsidies helped to keep the neighborhood alive. In fact, when I was first looking for an apartment in New York, I contemplated applying for a subsidy to move to BPC. I didn't go through with it in the end as the paperwork scared me.

Now Battery Park City is relatively back to normal and rents are set to go up in 2009. I know this because my friends, Gene and Kate, have lived here for almost 3 years and may have to move when the rents go back to their true market value. But more on them later.

I started my BPC adventure at the Irish Hunger Memorial on the corner of Vesey St. & North End Ave. It is a monument to those who died during the Irish Potato famine, and "is a symbol to highlight areas of the world affected by hunger today." As you look at the memorial from the east side, it looks like a grassy hill, with the ruin of a cottage (actually brought over from County Mayo) at the top. If you walk around the memorial, you see that the hill is, in fact, hollow and you can enter into it, and turn up into the garden. Apparently, the doors close at dusk and so I didn't get to go inside. I could hear a recording playing with Irish voices (probably Bono's) talking about world hunger through the gate. Suddenly, the song, "Do They Know It's Christmas (Feed the World)," came on. I looked down at the half of a turkey sandwich in my bag that would probably go uneaten and I felt pretty guilty.

I turned on to the Esplanade and walked south towards my first stop for the night. I have to say, the view was just gorgeous even if it was cloudy.

The sun sets over Jersey City

I stopped in the Winter Garden, which is kind of a mall/performance space/office building. The final competition in Mad Hot Ballroom took place here. I walked into the main atrium and was startled to see huge palm trees! In New York! Lots of people were hanging out on benches underneath the trees. What a great place to have a coffee!

I left the Winter Garden and walked further down the esplanade, passing tons of joggers, dog walkers and dog joggers. There were some neat sights along the walk. Like this place...

It's kind of hard to tell from the picture, but all the surfaces were covered in mosaic tiles. It seemed like something out of a Dr. Seuss story: very colorful and unexpected.

There was this viewing tower...

And the sweetest, happiest, most innocent looking snowman I ever saw in front of...

...a holocaust museum?

I finally made it to the bottom of the esplanade and walked over to my first stop, The Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park. I had heard that there was a bar called Rise in the hotel that had amazing views of the harbor. I walked into the bar around 6pm only to find that it was standing room only. I was a little worried about how much a drink would cost so I thought I'd be safe and order a glass of Chardonnay. Let me give you a tip: if you are in a fancy hotel - like the Ritz -and you're looking to get a relatively inexpensive glass of chardonnay, don't ask the bartender which brand he recommends. I ended up spending $27 on one. glass. of. wine.

The view was pretty spectacular though. The bar was small, but it had a terrece that opens in warmer weather that must double its size. I tried to get a picture of the view from inside the bar. This was the best I could do without a flash (that would bounce off the windows)...

The green blob in the middle is the Statue of Liberty.

I finished my glass of unicorn blood-I mean, wine, and got up to leave. There was now a long line of people waiting to get in. I stopped in Rise's "Chocolate Bar" down the hall (something the bar was doing every weekend in February). There was a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge made out of chocolate. Across the bridge was a spread of chocolate desserts. I had to leave before I devoured it like a chocolate-crazed godzilla.

I suspect the papers underneath are loan applications.

I walked back up the esplanade to meet my friends, Gene and Kate, at the restaurant, Steamer's Landing. Gene said that the restaurant had good food and great views. (More great views!) Gene also mentioned that 30 Rock shot part of its Cleveland episode here. "It was ridiculous. You could see the Colgate Clock in the background!" Gene cried.

The food was quite good. I ordered the "Pan Roasted Bell & Evans French Chicken Breast". It was a really yummy chicken breast atop 4 polenta triangles with a creamy, roasted garlic sauce. Gene got the Seafood Stew (which looked like it could have fed all of us) and Kate got the crab cakes.

The view was the best part of the place. (Have I mentioned the view?) It was so great that when I was writing this I actually I had to go back to Steamer's Landing's website to remember what restaurant itself looked like. Wherever you sat, you looked right out over the river. With that, the dim lighting, and the hushed conversation I could imagine this as the perfect location for a romantic dinner. Too bad Gene and Kate are taken.

After dinner, Gene and Kate showed me a few more sites including a part of the Berlin Wall!

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this section of wall!

I had a great time in Battery Park City. Who knew? I definitely plan to come back for future visits. I'll have to take out a mortgage, though, before I return to the Ritz.


Megan said...

I can't believe "Cleveland" was actually Battery Park City! The final insult to Cleveland - they won't even go there to mock it.

Jamena said...

i liked reading this..it was funny..especially @ the new museum..i love the art there but i agree it is esoteric and random but it is also pure...i was looking for a pic of the path of the sun over jersey city for school and u had one on ur page..after that i read a few of ur post...funny..xo!

Jamena said...

i liked reading this..it was funny..especially @ the new museum..i love the art there but i agree it is esoteric and random but it is also pure...i was looking for a pic of the path of the sun over jersey city for school and u had one on ur page..after that i read a few of ur post...funny..xo!