Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead



This is the fourth of a series of articles about traveling the byways of New York State


By Charles N. Stevens

Photos by Dolores Seidman

Unlike the village atmosphere of Greenwich Village, Soho with its numerous chain stores, has a more contemporary look.  Many of the older buildings are cast iron, pre-fab structures from the l800s, said to have been built in only a few weeks.  Many of the arches and even the fluted columns are composed of cast iron.  Like every other part of New York, Starbucks coffee houses are on almost every corner, with over 200 of them in Manhattan alone.

From Soho we ease into Chinatown which looks much like the one in San Francisco except that the terrain is flat.  Curved eaves are everywhere.  Even McDonald’s resembles a Buddhist temple.  Several stores had been shut down, our guide tells us, because they had been selling knockoff goods.

Not far away is Little Italy with its Italian restaurants and markets. We brush by the edge of Wall Street, named after a real wall once erected by the Dutch when New York was New Amsterdam.

Pier l7 at Seaport Village is our next stop, the pier extending out into the East River.  Like everywhere else it is packed with tourists.  A food court upstairs in the main building offers all kinds of ethnic food.  Orange chicken with fried rice makes a nice lunch for me.  After lunch Dolores and I walk to the end of the pier.  We find several deck chairs, ease ourselves into them then relax in the sun, gazing out at the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge.  Speedboats race by, their engines at full bore, leaving turbulent wakes behind them. Tourist boats pass so close we can hear their loudspeakers announcing the sights.  A dinner boat, riding low to the water, its dining facilities enclosed in glass, its white-clothed tables set for lunch, floats slowly by.  Seagulls cry, and the staccato beat of tourist helicopters is always with us.  The sun shimmers on the water like a thousand flashbulbs going off at once.  An electric sign on one of the block-like Brooklyn buildings across the water reads 60 degrees.

Since it’s about time for our bus to return, we sit on wooden benches waiting.  Men pushing dollies carrying bundles wrapped in blankets wheel up and down the sidewalk.  If they spot a likely customer, they stop and open the bundle to reveal new purses, most of them appearing to be knockoffs.  One woman asks, “Do you have a Gucci?” The huckster, casting a wary eye in all directions, untangles the blanket, fishing one out.  Apparently, if they keep the black market goods covered, the police don’t have the right to make them open it.  Small crowds gather around the dealers looking for bargains.

Back on the bus, we skirt the edge of Wall Street again, then pass by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.  Only foot passengers are allowed on these ferries as cars were forbidden after 9/11.

Our next stop is Winter Gardens, a magnificent complex of offices, restaurants and shops. Real palm trees grow in its vast marble-floored atrium, large windows looking out on a marina.  The second-story windows on the east side afford an excellent view of Ground Zero.  It’s hard to imagine that two huge skyscrapers once stood here.  All traces of them are now gone.  Other than the beginning structure of the Freedom Tower, some day to be 1776 feet tall, the acres of space are full of white, red and yellow cranes pointing skyward, girders, piles of lumber, construction equipment, pipes, wire fences and even a few trees. Across the gaping wasteland stands the small l774 St. Paul’s Church nearly hidden in trees.  This old church, where George Washington once worshipped, acted as a refuge for the rescue workers who had to sift through the wreckage of the twin towers.

Across from the church is an information center describing what happened to the twin towers and what the future of the area will look like.

Back on the bus, we zip by the Federal Reserve Bank and the narrow, shaded canyons of Wall Street, some of them closed to traffic.

We pass the impressive glass structure of the United Nations Building and the nearby hall where the Security Council gathers.  Today, the flagpoles outside are bare, but when the UN is in session, the colorful flags of all nations ripple in the breeze.  We pause in traffic opposite the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, built again with Astor money.  What is most interesting, other than its fame and history, is that it is located above the tracks leading into Grand Central Terminal and is cushioned against the vibrations from the trains below.  A secret station for dignitaries once existed in the bowels of the hotel.

Our bus crosses wide Park Avenue with its attractive median of grass, trees and shrubs then Madison Avenue lined with expensive stores.  We leave the bus at Rockefeller Center, the flags of nations rippling in a light wind, the ice skating rink below alive with gliding ice skaters.

Crossing 5th Avenue we enter the great gothic interior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A mass in Spanish is in progress. Green-robed priests stand at the altar as the lovely voice of a soprano resounds within the stone walls.  We sit and rest in a pew while watching the service, votive candles flickering in the chapels to our right.

Once rested, we walk down to the Trump Tower, an astounding building.  The cavernous atrium is dominated by a five-story high waterfall, the water cascading down walls of russet marble with embedded lights to highlight the flow.  Near the base of the fall is a restaurant.  Even the bathrooms are lined with marble.  We stand in awe as we look up at the waterfall, mesmerized by its fluid movement and the sound of its tumbling and splashing.

Walking along 5th Avenue again we pass the exclusive stores of Cartier, well-dressed guards watching the door, H. Stern, Harry Winston, Venetta and Swarovski.

The final event of the day is dinner in one of New York’s famous delis. We walk into the Stage Deli and squeeze ourselves into the booths.  The place is quite popular, crowded and noisy, the waiters rather blunt.  They serve generous portions, but at high prices. Pastrami sandwiches are over 3 inches thick, mostly from the thin layers of meat.  Dolores and I share a dessert, a bulging mound of strawberry shortcake buried in whipped cream and ice cream.

Satiated, we’re back on the bus, inching our way in traffic, sap-oozing slow, red taillights glaring among the blinking lights of billboards and electronic signs.

Skaters glide over the ice at Rockefeller Center

Skaters glide over the ice at Rockefeller Center

The devastation of Ground Zero as seen from the Winter Gardens

The devastation of Ground Zero as seen from the Winter Gardens

The atrium of Winter Gardens with its tall palm trees

The atrium of Winter Gardens with its tall palm trees

The spectacular waterfall cascades from the inside of the Trump Tower

The spectacular waterfall cascades from the inside of the Trump Tower

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