Lower Manhattan’s big toe plunges into the water where the East River meets the Hudson, describing a port rich in attractions. Three welcoming neighborhoods in the area – Battery Park City, TriBeCa, and South Street Seaport – are easily accessible by public transportation and offer airy marinas, expansive green spaces, destination restaurants, and a plethora of art galleries. These days, outsiders are few along the waterfront, and the people of Wall Street are just a trickle, seemingly in no rush to return to the office buildings.
This isn’t the first time that Lower Manhattan has gone down. The 20th anniversary of the events of September 11 is looming, but budget cuts prevent the 9/11 Memorial and Museum from mounting a commemorative exhibit. Hurricane Sandy ravaged streets and businesses again in 2012. The damage to lives and livelihoods from the coronavirus will take time to heal. Still, a visit to one of these neighborhoods – with time allotted for their walks and riverside piers – is bound to be restorative.
Battery park town
Battery Park City, a planned community built on a landfill along the Hudson River, looks like a barren canyon made up mostly of residential buildings. But closer to the water’s edge, winding paths lined with lush greenery give way to the full spectrum of New York Harbor – and it’s breathtaking.
The panoramic panorama frames the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, passing sailboats and the Staten Island ferry. The air is brackish and seems a few degrees cooler than the upscale neighborhoods. Picnic tables and benches are provided free of charge throughout the neighborhood. Green Space – Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park; Nelson A. Rockefeller Park; Teardrop Park – is plentiful.
The Battery Park City Authority manages and maintains the area, which includes an outdoor public art collection and Poetry Path, an installation featuring fragments of more than 40 poets reproduced on bench slats, cobblestones and panels.
Wagner Park is the setting for a free outdoor concert series, River & Blues, from Thursday through July. The final one, July 29, will feature Reverend Sekou and the freedom fighters at 6 p.m. ET. Bring your own blankets and snacks. From August 15 to 20, 7 to 9 p.m., the park will host the 40th annual Battery Dance Festival, with free performances by dancers from around the world. The festival will also be broadcast live.
The talents of PUBLIQuartet’s contemporary interpretation of chamber music will be on display at Belvedere Plaza, just north of North Cove Marina, on August 5 at 6:30 p.m. (free). This pretty marina is often adorned with yachts and borders Brookfield Place, an upscale shopping center. The District, a French themed market on the ground floor, and Hudson Eats, a food court at the top of an escalator, were shadows of themselves on a recent visit, feeling listless without normal labor force.
However, business was overflowing at Merchants River House (375 South End Avenue), tucked away on Battery Park City Esplanade. The relaxed American bistro has two outdoor terraces and spectacular views. Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips is fun to share ($ 17 at lunch and dinner; $ 12 during happy hour, Monday to Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.). Linger, if you can, until the sun goes down.
This former manufacturing district is supposed to be New York City’s richest zip code (10007), but there’s no need to drop a fortune here.
Pier 25 at Hudson River Park has an 18-hole miniature golf course ($ 10 for adults; $ 5 for children) and sand volleyball courts. If you’re feeling full, a seafood-focused menu at Grand Banks is served aboard a moored wooden schooner, the Sherman Zwicker, with expertly scaled oysters ($ 19.50 to $ 25 for a half dozen).
Along with this is Pier 26, which opened last year and is more meditative, a habitat of local plants and wooden walkways. Lounge chairs, swings large enough to accommodate adults, and counters facing the river for your coffee are designed to promote relaxation.
Several art galleries with free entry can be found along Walker Street (Bortolami, at # 39; James Cohan, at # 48; Lomex, at # 86; and WINDOW by Anton Kern Gallery, at # 91) . Cortlandt Alley is worth a foray for Andrew Kreps Gallery, at # 22. On Lispenard Street, look for the Denny Dimin Gallery, at # 39; and Canada, # 60. Nicelle Beauchene, 7 Franklin Place, and Postmasters, 54 Franklin Street, whose current group exhibit features stunning digital works, are other highly respected gallery owners.
While a number of galleries are newcomers, TriBeCa has lost more than 60 storefronts to the pandemic, according to Pam Frederick, editor of local news site Tribeca Citizen. Closures of longtime favorite restaurants like Sole di Capri, Tokyo Bay and Mariachi’s, as well as the beloved Reade Street Pub, which housed a series of saloons since the 1800s, hit hard, she said.
“Tribeca is a low rise village within a city,” Ms. Frederick said, “with a lot of good, owner-managed food and drink options which makes it very community-oriented.”
For example, Lynn Wagenknecht and her son Harry McNally are usually on the premises of the Odeon (145 West Broadway), a legendary canteen since 1980. It’s hard to go wrong with a jug of creamy, tangy and breaded mac and cheese ( $ 18) or the soothing three-egg omelet ($ 21).
Mudville 9 has been around for even longer, a classic watering hole since 1977 (126 Chambers Street). Spinning craft beers flow from taps, sold two for one during happy hour, Tuesday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Beef Burgers and Impossible Plant-Based Burgers ($ 19 to $ 20) provide good weight.
Since 2018, Frenchette (241 West Broadway) has been a must-see bistro. It’s not difficult to get a table these days and the sidewalk seating is lovely; to eat indoors, proof of vaccination is required. Co-chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson’s menu changes frequently, but crunchy golden fries are a constant, arguably the best in town. On a recent visit, they were stacked next to a tender flank steak drenched in shallot marrow sauce ($ 45). It’s worth paying for the bread ($ 8), a dense half-baguette served with radishes, and a slice of Ploughgate Creamery custard-like butter.
This baguette is also sold at Frenchette Bakery, tucked away in a nearby office lobby (220 Church Street). If buttered, savory, and cheesy gougères (three for $ 5) are in stock, don’t hesitate. And, oh, the savory egg pastries! A recent one featured a candied egg plugged into a round, multi-layered croissant topped with Comté cheese and pistachio-studded mortadella slices unfurling like petals ($ 8).
Even if you’re not spending the night at the Roxy Hotel in TriBeCa (2 Sixth Avenue), step inside to catch live jazz at the bar or Django, an underground club. A soft cinema in red hues is also on the premises.
South Street Harbor
The cobblestones of the historic South Street Seaport can be dangerous for heels and bikes, but add character to this transporting maritime idyll on the East River. Fulton Street is lined with restaurants and shops, including a branch of independent bookseller McNally Jackson, in small brick buildings dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers.
Head east on Fulton Street, cross South Street, to vintage ships docked next to Pier 17. The revamped Pier looks soulless and corporate, but has spice inside and out. Stroll to the end where sturdy chairs and benches look out over the water, then to the north side, offering a fisheye perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge. There are long picnic tables for the enjoyment of the public.
The Greens, on the rooftop of Pier 17, hosts outdoor movie nights every Monday through August. Check the calendar for upcoming DJ sets and concerts.
A fleet of restaurants spans Pier 17, including the new Carne Mare, a two-level Italian chophouse run by chef Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch, Locanda Verde). David Chang’s resuscitated Ssäm Bar and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Fulton, a seafood restaurant, are other headliners. The Fulton’s outdoor tables at the end of the pier are the most appealing, but the location comes at a price, like a margarita that unexpectedly costs $ 26.
Freshly baked bread rolls, sweetened with milk and with a cheese crust, are offered free of charge at Carne Mare. The menu is pricey, but snacks like cups of king crab lettuce spiked with crisp Italian chili ($ 22) and golden caviar mozzarella sticks ($ 24) were deliciously worth every dollar. A sidecar made with Dudognon Reserve Cognac cost $ 16, more in line with bar prices elsewhere in town. Get there now – general tips for Lower Manhattan – before the post-Labor Day crowds come down.
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