Tours, Trails & Group Rides

A Neighborhood, Before It Disappears

When in New York, I stay with The Manhattanites in Washington Heights, in  northwest Manhattan.  The neighborhood was originally mostly Dominican, culturally speaking, but it has been gradually gentrifying.  Starbucks arrived a few years ago, in the area where The Manhattanites live, when things began to change.

North of their apartment, though, the area still retains an aggressively ethnic flavor.   I like that; I’ll be sorry when it’s all gone bland and become not-distinctive-anything, and the only food available is chi-chi, and the only shops mainstream.

At the moment, though, store fronts still spill out onto the sidewalk, and street vendors abound, selling anything and everything.

Fresh fruit and produce are trucked in and sold in the open air, set out in the crates in which they arrived.

Most, if not all, of the businesses are hole-in-the wall mom-and-pop affairs, and the offerings aren’t what you’ll find at your local chain.  Chocolate con 1 rolo?  Oh, yeah!

Floridita Broadway Bakery specializes in Dominican cakes — if I were a carb eater, I’d be working the shops all up and down the street!

On hot summer days, helados (icy treats — could be ice cream,  fruit pops, or anything similar) are available from push carts.

There’s some ethnic gentrification going on too.  This is a rather fancy market selling Latin foods and ingredients notably not available at the ubiquitous Gristedes groceries.

Inside, the appearance of the street stands has been recreated, with notably carefully selected goods — offered at much higher prices. That’s not surprising, though, as there’s rent to pay and utilities to fund.

El Tren de la Slaud offers productos naturales y organicos. Does that engine look like the Acela?  Not sure that’s the best illustration; Amtrak’s Acela engines can go super fast, but track and traffic limitations keep it in the slow lane.

Victor’s Bicycle is a large, old school, bike shop on Broadway  at west 174th, not far from Manny Bicycle on Bennett bet Broadway and Fort Washington. They’ve both been around a while, so it’s probably safe to say that there’s been “bike culture” of some sort in Washington Heights a long time before Adeline Adeline arrived in lower Manhattan.

There are a  lot of working bicycles in the neighbourhood; food delivery is a big deal in Manhattan, where kitchens are small or virtually non-existent, and good food is only a phone call (or a computer screen) away.

Some things will never change, though. An RV caught on fire in the George Washington Bridge Bus Station when I was at Manny Bicycle, which shut the terminal down for hours, and resulted in the scene below. (And shut down most of the George Washington Bridge for hours.)

Outside the station doors, emergency workers were dealing with angry and incredulous New Yorkers who just could not believe that they were not allowed to enter the smoke-filled  terminal (which incidentally also smelled of burnt rubber and fried electricity).

Don’t ever tell  New Yorkers what they can’t do.  They don’t like it, and they know you’re wrong, even if most of the fire-fighting power of upper Manhattan is called out to deal with the crisis.

Also, it’s a New Yorker’s god-given right to use his phone whenever and wherever he pleases.  Neighborhoods may come and go, but New Yorkers will stand their ground forever.  Ya gotta be tough to survive in the big city.