Tag: snow

Seneca Village

Sunday, February 24th, 2008 | All Things, NYC History

On a walking tour organized by the Central Park Conservancy this clear and chilly Sunday afternoon.

Our group of about a dozen met a pair of guides inside the Park at the Mariner’s Gate entrance at 85th Street. From there, we set off to tour the lands that once made up Seneca Village, Manhattan’s first known community of African American property owners. The village, founded in 1825, once occupied the land between what is now the Great Lawn to Central Park West and from 82nd to 89th Streets — an area of about five acres. Within a few years, the community developed into a stable settlement of over 250 working-class residents, with its own churches, school and cemetery. African Americans owned more than half the households in the village — an unusually high percentage of property ownership for any New York community. By the 1840s, Irish and German immigrants, and perhaps Native Americans, owned several land plots as well; in total, during its over three decades in existence, approximately 1,600 people owned property, lived and/or worked in Seneca Village.

Up the trail to Summit Rock — at 141.8 feet, the highest elevation in Central Park (but not the highest point in Manhattan.)

Summit Rock

The guides explained the challenges of this particular park tour, as nothing of note remains of the original community, save for the trickling remnants of an abundant natural spring near 82nd Street which would have served as the village’s main source of fresh drinking water. Instead, we were given photocopies of historic maps, and shown artists’ renderings of the structures that would have existed in the mid-19th century. This view overlooks what would have been the heart of Seneca Village.

Seneca Village

In 1855, the New York State Census reported approximately 264 residents in the semi-rural village, at a time when most of the city’s immigrant population was concentrated in slums below 14th Street. Two years later, after the state legislature authorized the use of eminent domain to publicly acquire private land for the purpose of creating Central Park, the entire village was razed without a trace. Landowners living within the boundaries of the proposed park were compensated financially for their property, though several filed claims in New York State Supreme Court, protesting the city’s valuations of their land. Little is known of the outcome of those lawsuits, or where the hundreds of residents may have relocated. What is known is that once scattered, the community of Seneca Village was not re-established.

This spot of red is a cardinal, hidden among the trees:


Winterdale Arch at 82d Street, a pedestrian underpass and bridle path. The 1994 restoration included the award-winning recreation of the original cast-iron fencing along the top of the arch:

Winterdale Arch

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Snow day

Friday, February 22nd, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Events

The first major snowstorm of the season hit New York City today, forcing the cancellation of over 1,100 flights, including that of our friends SC and JG. (Weekend in Boca!) By 2PM, 5.6 inches of snow had accumulated in Central Park, the city’s biggest snowfall in two years; until that Friday, just 5.7 inches in total had fallen all winter, due in large part to the snowless stretch in January.

The Parks Department held a “Snow Day,” providing free sleds and Urban Park Ranger-led nature walks at selected park locations across the city. Almost 2,000 people participated in the event, in which 1,700 free cups of hot chocolate were served.

As adults, we don’t get many snow days. I put on my Doc Martens boots and trudged into the office.

Trinity Church snow

Trinity Church snow

Later that night, I met CS at the Laugh Lounge on Essex for the “L.E.S. is Indulgence” party, organized by The Lower East Side Business Improvement District. The organization, established in 1992, is dedicated to revitalizing Orchard Street’s historic shopping district.

No hot chocolate here; the beverages were of a decidedly more adult nature. Event sponsor, Zygo, promotes their signature liquor as “caffeine-spiked vodka.” Hmm, sounds familiar. More precisely, though, Zygo’s active ingredients are Yerba Maté (South American holly, used for tea), Guarana (South American berry, containing a substance chemically similar to caffeine), D-Ribose (naturally occurring sugar that is a component of RNA) and Tuarine (amino acid, best known as the stuff that gives Red Bull its wings.) If you’re looking for more flavor than kick, there are plenty of places around the city that offer infused vodka. Spirited hot chocolate, anyone?

We toured the tables set up by participants from the neighborhood: handmade truffles and caramelized butter toffee samples from Roni-Sue Chocolates, slick polish from Valley Nails, makeovers by MakeUpMania, and um, tips from Babeland…

Candy and vodka do not a meal make, so off we went in search of more substantial fare. Near hour waits at ‘inoteca and Schiller’s Liquor Bar just wouldn’t do. Luckily, there was Essex — at the top of our minds since SC’s birthday brunch — where we enjoyed a comforting repast of mac n’ cheese and potato latkes… just the thing for a snowy day.

Essex dinner

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Second snow

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 | All Things, Friends

The swirl of snow that descended upon us a couple of days ago blew in fast, but left hardly a trace in the streets. On the way home from the office this evening, I took a photo of our first significant snowfall of the year— the first in the city since December 16.

A few hours later, all of this would be washed away by the wintry mix that followed.

First snow

Later that night, we gathered over take-out Tebaya at SC’s home. Oh, how we love those Japanese chicken wings! But alas: just potemochi for me… and crackers spread generously with triple crème brie and Cambozola™ (the delightful blend of French Camembert and Italian Gorgonzola), which our hostess was considerate enough to pick up out of deference to Lenten diet.

40 days until Easter…

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