Before I start my stories about my city I wish to thank pooch who gave me the idea to write these stories.
The first story will be about the geography and some history of this city. New York City is made up of five boroughs. They are Queens, Brooklyn (known as Kings County), Manhatten, The Bronx and Staten Island (aka Richmond County). These five boroughs are separate entities although they have some same charecteristics. They are tied together with one Mayor, one Legislator (called a council), one Fire Dept., one Police Dept., one Sanitation Dept. and one Water and Sewer Dept. They have the same language with the exception of Brooklyn of which all I can say is fuhgeddaboudit.
Most visitors come only to Manhatten and think that is all there is to New York. They miss much of New York. There are five zoos one in each borough. There are two Botanical Gardens. One in Brooklyn and the other in The Bronx. There are fine dining places in each borough. There are museums devoted to just about anything scattered through the boroughs. So anybody who thinks they have seen New York city by seeing Manhatten is missing a great cultural experience.
There is a lot to talk about in this city so I will have to take each borough
and give you some facts about it. It is to long for this story so I will
write five more stories one on each borough. I will close by saying that
all the boroughs but one are islands. Only The Bronx is connected to the
mainland. all the others are connected by bridges.
Any body who visits New York City and does not ride the subway is really not seeing New York. Spending time in midtown Manhattan is just seeing other tourists not new yorkers. If you want to see what new york is really about get on the subway (however avoid the rush hour) and ride one of the trains. Now I know a lot of you hear stories of people getting hurt when they ride the subways so I will give you some facts. If the bridges connect New York then the subways are the arteries of the system. Four boroughs are connected by many lines and you can spend a whole day riding every one of them. The subway system has 231 miles of track. On any weekday it carries over 4 million people. The record was set on Dec.23, 1946 when the subways carried over 8 million people. So if you know what to do your chances of being bothered on a subway is less than being struck by lightning.
Now some history of the subway system. The first subway system was the Interborough Rapid Transit known as the IRT. It was first put into service on Oct. 1904. The lines are numbered 1 through 7. They pass through all 4 boroughs and run from one end of The Bronx to the end of Brooklyn and in Queens to Shea Stadium. The next system was the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit known as the BMt. This went into service on May 1923. There were 4 lines with all but 1 starting at the Times Square Station. The were known as the Sea Beach Line, The West End Line, The Culver Line and the Brighton Beach Line. All of the lines terminated at Coney Island (Stillwell Ave.). The last line went into service in 1932 and was known as the IND (the Independent line). this line ran to all 4 boroughs. The lines all had letters from A to F. In the 1950's the lines were merged into the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority. Now except for the old IRT all the lines are lettered.
Any visitors to New York City (if you are staying for more than a few days) should get 2 things. One is a bus and subway pass (they can be good for so many rides depending on how much you are willing to spend) and the second is a bus and subway map. This will save you time and money even if you only stay in Manhattan. Cab fares are very expensive and getting a pass every time is wasting time. Since there are quite a few things you might want to see outside of midtown Manhatten the easiest way is by subway and bus.
Now if you ever want to ride the subways here are some tips. when you get down to the station act like a New Yorker. Stand away from the platform until the train comes to a complete stop. Do not travel during rush hour. No matter what is going on do not stare especially at a person. Keep your eyes moving even if you have to read the advertisements. If you remember these few things a trip on the subway can be very enjoyable. Even if you are not going anywhere in particular just riding you can always get a free show. However in my other stories of the boroughs I will tell you about places that you can go to and enjoy yourself. I do hope you will visit my city sometime and have a ball.
The first borough I will talk about is the least known of the boroughs. Supposedly it got its name from a joke. It seems that when Hendrick Hudson sailed into New York harbor one of his sailors in the crows nest yelled out "land ho" and Hudson supposedly said "staten island". This story is so old it has whiskers. The truth is Hudson named the island after the Staten Generaal which is the Dutch Parliament. The British when they took over New York named it Richmond after the bastard son of one of the Henries. however many of the Dutch names remain.
When New York incorperated it became one of the five boroughs although it is much closer to New Jersey than New York. In fact up until the 1970's the only way to get to the island was by a ferry boat which ran from lower Manhattan at the battery to St. George in Staten Island. In the 70's it was connected by the Verazzano Bridge from Brooklyn. However since the early 20.s it was connected to N.J. by 3 bridges The Goethals Bridge, The Bayonne Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing named for the first director of the Port Authority. During those early years it was very pastoral with many private houses ans estates. It was also a retreat for the wealthy because of the many beaches on the island. It fronts on the Atlantic Ocean and is seperated from N.J. by 2 rivers the Kill van Kull and the Arthur Kill. It also has a railway which used to be the Tottenville railway until it was taken over by the MTA when it became the Staten Island Railway running from St. George to Tottenville. If you want the whole history of Staten Island Wickopedia has some nice articles. I want to tell about some of the sights.
Any visit to New York City longer than a weekend should take in Staten Island. If you take the subway to the Battery at the end of Manhattan you can get the Staten Island Ferry. This is a 20 minute ride across harbor to St George on Staten Island. This trip is especially nice in the summer. They usually have live music on the trip by musicians making some money by playing and passing the hat. After landing at St George you can take the railway (which consists of a couple of subway cars) to the end of the line which is Tottenville. During the trip you will pass through pastoral scenery. When you get back to St George there are restaurants where you can have a nice lunch, If you have time you can also visit 2 zoos, an old fort (Wadsworth) and 1 of the largest landfills in the USA. It is called Mount Garbage by residents since it is over 600 feet high. It is finally been closed but it was leaking into the Kill van Kull and polluted that water so bad that almost nothing can live it it. After spending some time in Staten Island you can take the ferry back to Manhatten. On the way there and back you will pass close to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
I do hope you get a chance to visit Staten Island even if you only take
the ferry there and back, You can at least spen an enjoyable hour seeing
the harbor and the least known of the 5 boroughs.
The farthest western county of Long Island is Kings County more familiary known as Brooklyn. It has the largest population of any other borough with over 2.5 million people. If is was a city it would be the 4th largest in the USA. Although it is part of New York City it like the other boroughs has a borough president who shares responsibility with the mayor and the city council for the smooth running of the borough. It was incorperated with the other boroughs into New York City in 1898.
Getting in, out and around Brooklyn is no problem at all. The borough is criss crossed with many subway lines, many bus lines and plenty of bridges. The most famous bridge is the Brooklyn Bridge which was the first suspension bridge in the USA. Built by JohnRoebling it opened in 1882 and still carries hundreds of cars every day to and from lower Manhattan. Among other bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan are the Manhattan Bridge, the Quensboro Bridge, the Midtown Tunnel, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and now connecting Staten Island the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which is the longest suspension bridge in the USA. Even though it is connected to Queens there are still bridges over Newtown Creek. They are the Kosciuszko Bridge and the Pulaski Bridge. If you want to drive around the borough there is the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, The Jackie Robinson Parkway and the Belt Parkway. All this makes Brooklyn pretty easy to get around and see the sights.
Brooklyn is a true melting pot of the United States. There are about 75 differant languages spoken from people from all over the world. Most are divided into little enclaves with their own language and customs. To give a few instances. There is Brighton Beach which is heavily Russian. Williamsburgh is mixed with Blacks from all over Africa and the U.S., Hispanics and Hasidem from Eastern Europe. Irish live in Red Hook. with so many ethnic minorities there is plenty of restaurants from all over the world. However no matter where they live or what they speak at home they all speak Brooklynese which has no counterpart anywhere else.
Now for seeing and doing things Brooklyn has many attractions. There is the Botanical Garden which is one of the most beautiful in the U.S. It has quite a number of museums one of which is the Subway Museum which shows subway and trolly cars from all eras of the city. In there on display are some private subway cars one of which belonged to Belmont. Now if you want to have fun there is Coney Island which is home to the Cyclone rollercoaster. It is one of if not the oldest rollercoaster in the U.S. having celebrated its 75th Anniversery this year. There is also the first Nathans home of the hot dog eating contest every year. There is also an Acquarium on the boardwalk (which stretches for 3 miles). If you are so inclined you can also go swimming on all the beaches or go fishing on a pier. They also have a class A baseball team playing at Cyclone field which is on the site of the old Steeplechase Amusement Park, For a modest sum in the evening you can see a professional baseball game.
Whenever you come to New York City it would be worth your while to spend
a few days seeing Brooklyn. It is only a short subway ride from Manhatten
and has many different sights from museums to different sections all offering
something ethnic to eat to beaches and amusements. I can assure you it
will be time well spent.
Most visitors to New York City think they have seen New York by seeing Times Square, gopng to a few plays and seeing the sights between 34th Street and 90th Street. I am sorry to say that that is not seeing New York. There is much more to see as I will tell you.
Manhattan was the site of the first swindle in the United States. When the Dutch first landed in Manhattan the Manhatta Indians (for which Manhatten is named after) were up north hunting. The Canarsie Indians from Brooklyn came over to downtown Manhatten to do some fishing. Of course the Dutch bought the island for 24 dollars so the legand goes, but they bought it from the Canarsies who then left richer than when they came. Now when the Manhatta Indians came back the Dutch had to buy it all over again.
If you really want to see New York you will have to spend at least 2 weeks here because seeing just Manhattan can take almost a week. Manhattan is considered the heart of New York. It has the most things to do. There are museums galore of which the most famous are the Museum of Natural History which with the Planaterium requires at least 2 whole days to see it all. There is also the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Photography, the Museum of the City of New York and many others. It has some of the best restaurants in the United States and a beautiful park and zoo.
However that is not all of Manhattan. There is the Battery at the lower end of Manhatten where you can take the Staten Island Ferry or a boat to go to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A little ways cross town there is Wall Street and the Stock Exchange where George Washington took his oath of office. Further on going to the East River there is South Street Seaport. However those are only some of the sights. Going uptown there is Greenwich Village where many artists live and Soho where more live. Around that area there is Chinatown, Little Italy and the Ghetto. There you can eat the best ethnic.
Proceeding uptown there is Tribeca where they hold a film festival every year. If you come at the right time you might see some famous actors and actresses. Further on there is Harlem, then Washington Heights and Inwood which has a park with 2 bald eagles living in it. The last 3 that I mentioned however are mainly apartments; however in Harlem and that vicinity there are brownstones that go back 200 years.
As I said in the beginning of this story if you want to see Manhattan be prepared to spen at least a week here and if you want to see the other boroughs at least 2.
Long Island is an Island 120 miles long and about 25 miles wide at its widest point. It is divided into 4 counties. They are from East to West Suffok, Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn. The first 2 are separate unities with their own Mayor, Sanitation, Fire and Police. The last 2 are boroughs of NYC. This article is about Queens.
Queens as we know it today was made a borough in 1898. With a population of over 2 million its population is only exceeded by Brooklyn. Most of Queens is residential somewhat like Staen Island. However it has quite a few places of interest. These places would be nice places to visit if you have some time and want to get away from Manhattan for awhile.
Coming in to New York City landing at JFK International and Laguardia airports you are in Queens as both are in that borough 10 miles apart. From Laguardia you will usually get on the Grand Central Parkway and go over the Triboro Bridge to Manhattan unless you want to stay at a hotel in Queens or Brooklyn. If a taxi or bus fare is to expensive for your budget there are buses that will take you to subway stations where you can travel to Manhattan much cheaper. If you land at JFK you will have to either take a taxi or a bus. However you can take a taxi to a subway station and take the subway where you want to go.
There are many things for visitors to see. There is Shea Stadium where you can take in a ball game if the Mets are playing at home. Nearby there are the Worlds Fair sites. 3 of them from the 39 Worlds Fair and 3 from the 63-64 Worlds Fair. They also have a zoo and a Museum of Science. this Museum of Science has an Atlas and Agena Rockets in front of the museum and inside there are many exhibits of science especially for kids. Some of these sites can be reached by subway and others by bus. However there are free transfers from subway to bus and vice versa. They also have nice beaches that are on the Atlantic Ocean. They are in the Rockaways. Thay can be reached by subway and you can spend a nice day swimming. There is also an Amusement Park that you can visit in the Rockaways.
I hope that if you decide to
visit New York City sometime you spend some time in Queens. You wont be
The last borough I am going to talk about is the one that I live in. Now here is a question. Why are the other boroughs named with just the name but you always say The Bronx? Give up? The reason goes way back when the Dutch lived here. One family owned most of this Borough and that was the Bronk family. They owned the lower part and the van Cortland family owned the upper part. So when people came here they would say we are going to the Bronks. Later the ks was changed to an x but it was always The Bronx.
Of all the boroughs I like this one the best. That is why I saved it for last. It does not have the frenetic pace of Manhatten but is more like the other four. It has many private houses and many hi rise apartments, co ops and condominiums too. It has very good shopping areas and since it is the only borough connected to the main land it is easy to shop in the malls in Westchester county. The transportation is very good with many bus lines and subway lines.
There are also quite a few things to visit. One is the World Wildlife Association aka The Bronx Zoo which is one of the finest in the USA. Its Childrens Zoo is larger than most Zoo's and most of the animals are outside in their natural habitat. One little known fact is that the last of the Bison herds was sent to the zoo and from those few animals all the rest of the Bison today were descended. There is a bird house whic is 3 stories high and parts of it the birds are flying free. If you want to see the zoo be prepared to spend at least 2 or 3 days visiting. Believe me it is something worth seeing.
Another very interesting place is the Bronx Botanical Garden which is also one of the best in the USA rivaling the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. There you can take courses in Botany which Universities will accept. You can go into a Green House and travel from a tropical rainforest to a desert and see the plants native to each climeate. In addition during the Christmas Holiday Season they have electric trains running through parts of the green house which is called the Conservatory. That is only one part of the garden. There is the Rose Garden, the Rock Garden and the only virgin forest left in New York among other gardens. This also requires at least 2 days to see.
Ther is also a very nice beach called Orchard Beach which is very nice for swimming since it is on Long Island Sound and has no waves. Next to the beach is City Island which has some of the best sea food restaurants there are. Also on City Island you can rent a boat and go fishing on the sound. They also have party boats leaving in the morning and staying out for 4 hours.
Well this is just a little bit of The Bronx. I could write a book about my borough but I will close now by saying. I hope you will visit my city some day and I will be here to show you around. I LOVE NEW YORK.
Coney Island is an island at the end of Brooklyn. It was named that because of the rabbits that were there. Before there were beaches and amusements people used to go rabbit hunting on the island. It now has over 2 miles of beaches (broken down into bays) and a boardwalk that runs from Brighton Beach to Seagate. However the amusements ran only a few blocks along Stilwell Ave. It was the closest thing at that time to Disneyland.
Coney Island For a child growing up it was the closest thing to heaven for me. Where else could you eat in one day corn on the cob, a slice of pizza, a hot dog, a knish, cotton candy, crackerjacks, popcorn, fries and wash it down with steins of root beer. Then you take a subway ride home and get a belly ache so bad you wish you could die and then throw the whole mess up in the toilet.
Coney Island the home of the Cyclone,Thunderbolt, and Tornado roller coasters. The home of Luna Park (burnt down in 1944) and Steeplechase amusement parks. Steeplechase with 36 different rides. Coney Island with the Parachute Jump and the Wonder Wheel plus various other rides all designed to scare the you know what out of you. If you want more history about Coney Island there are many books written about it and you can also go to google. This is my story about my experiences at Coney Island as a young boy and a teenager.
The first time I went to Coney was when I was 5 years old. I was living in Brooklyn and took a trolley with my parents to Coney. When we got there I took off my clothes and since I was wearing my bathing suit ran down the beach and into the water. I could not swim so stayed in the surf. After about an hour playing in the water it was time to go and eat lunch. After lunch I wanted to go back in the water but was told by my mother "you must wait an hour before you go back into the water because you will get a cramp and drown”. Talk about scare tactics. So I went down to the waters edge and played in the sand. All of a sudden a rouge wave came along and touched my feet. Oh my God I thought this is it now I will get a cramp and die. I ran to my mother and asked her if it was time. When she said yes I was relieved and then went back in the water and played for another hour.
After that I went under the boardwalk, my father put a towel around me and I took off my bathing suit and put on my street clothes. We then went to Stilwell Ave where I went on some kiddy rides and had a knish and a root beer. Then we took the subway back home to my grandfather’s house. I took a bath got in my PJ’s and went to sleep.
I went to Coney twice more before my father and mother moved to Baltimore where I stayed for 3 and half years. When I came back in 1942 I stayed with my uncle and aunt until my father found an apartment for us in Washington Heights. I did not go back to coney until 1943 but that is another story for next month.
After I came back with my family (from Baltimore in 1942) to live in NYC I use to go to Coney Island regular during the summer. From 1942 until I got married in 1957 I went with my mother and later with my friends. It was one of the greatest places in the world.
We would take the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) to Times Square and then transfer free to the BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Transit) to go to Coney. Early on we would take the Brighton Beach and get off at Bay 6th St. where the bathhouse was. There we could change into our bathing suit, go swimming and change back later to go on rides.
My mother would pack a lunch usually consisting of a baloney sandwich and some hard boiled eggs with some kind of juice to drink. However we had to go swimming first and play in the surf. Then after awhile when we got hungry we would get out of the water and eat our lunch. After that we could not go near the water for an hour because if the cold water touched you you would get a cramp and die horribly. So we played by the ocean and kept asking that age old question “is it time yet”. Finally it was and we played in the surf until it was time to go.
After we got dressed we would go on the tides. When I was younger there were quite a few rides I could not go on. Later as I got older and went with my friends we would go on many rides including roller coasters. When I was a teenager there were so many rides. There was the Cyclone, the Tornado, the Thunderbolt, all roller coaters. There was the Whip, the Bobsled, Bumper cars, The Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump and 1 big amusement park called Steeplechase. Those were some of the rides. There were also lots of games of chance.
Even later when I started dating my girlfriend and I would go down to Coney to do a little swimming and then have fun going on rides. Most of the time we would go to Steeplechase Park which had 36 different rides.
Most of this was done when I was younger. I would go down with some friends
and we would spend the day swimming, eating at Nathan’s, and going on rides.
When I got in my later teen years I would go down with a date and that
was a different story, which I will tell next month in Coney Island 3.
When I entered my teens I noticed something different about certain people. Some of them had bump son their chest and were quite different from us boys. Wow they were girls maturing. Later on when I got used to there being two sexes I started dating.
During the Autumn, Winter and Spring we would go to the movies and then go to an ice cream parlor for a soda and then go home . If you played your cards right you could get a kiss goodnight. Depending on the kiss was how erotic were your dreams. However the Summer was different.
The place to go on a date was to Coney Island and the best place to go with a girl was Steeplechase amusement park. The park had 36 different rides and you could get a combination ticket for all the rides for about 4 dollars. You could spend a whole day there going on all the rides but I usually paid for each ride.
We would start out about 10AM in the morning and take the subway to Coney Island. This required a change in the subway from the IRT to the BMT at Times Square.. We would then take the subway to Stilwell St. which was the end of the line and you would be at Coney Island. From there it was a short walk to Steeplechase.
After entering the park we would go on some rides. There was the tunnel of Love where later on you could do a little making out. Then there was the Caterpillar where you could also do some smooching. There was a small roller coaster, the horses of which I wrote about,, the turning barrel walk, and some other outside amusements.
You could also go inside where there were many more rides including a swing, a whip. Thing called the Whirlpool where you climbed on a round object that came to a point in the middle of a bowl and tried to hang on while the ride was spinning if you lost your grip (there was nothing to hang onto) you slid down to the side or bottom of the bowl and stayed there until the ride was over. Women who went on there were told not to wear short dresses because if you fell upside down people got a free show.
There were so many more rides that to explain them would take up to much time so I will end here and leave Steeplechase and go out on the boardwalk. There was the Parachute Jump and on the street the Wonder Wheel. We would spend the whole day there eating at Nathans and returning at about 4PM for supper.
In 1987 I went back but it was not the same. Most of the rides were gone as was Steeplechase and all the things that made coney coney. There were a few old rides but a lot of places were no apartments. I never went back and probably never will. I want to keep my memories when we were a freer people and could enjoy simple pleasures.