New York Songlines: Sixteenth Street

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HUDSON RIVER



Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park by BlakeRead, on Flickr

Back when Manhattan was one of the country's major seaports, the Hudson waterfront was bustling with shipping, transoceanic travel and ferries taking residents to and from the mainland. As New York deindustrialized, jets replaced ocean liners, and the island was linked to the mainland with bridges and tunnels, the waterfront became a sleepy, rather shabby zone with a forgotten feeling.

Starting in 1998, the city decided to stop turning its back on the sea and this project, stretching from 59th Street to Battery Park City, was begun. The first segment opened in 2003.



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The High Line

Chelsea Market at Night by HorsePunchKid, on Flickr

Bridging the street here is a disused elevated railroad that was used to transport freight along the Westside waterfront, replacing the street-level tracks at 10th and 11th avenues that earned those roads the nickname "Death Avenue." Built in 1929 at a cost of $150 million (more than $2 billion in today's dollars), it originally stretched from 35th Street to St. John's Park Terminal, now the Holland Tunnel rotary. Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line by David Jones, on Flickr

Partially torn down in 1960 and abandoned in 1980, it now stretches from Gansevoort almost to 34th--mostly running mid-block, so built to avoid dominating an avenue with an elevated platform. In its abandonment, the High Line became something of a natural wonder, overgrown with weeds and even trees, accessible only to those who risked trespassing on CSX Railroad property. purple tunnel by SpecialKRB, on Flickr

In 2009 it was opened to the public as New York City's newest park; it truly transforms its neighborhood and hence the city, though it lost some of the World Without Us quality that was its original appeal.

This stretch of the High Line is enclosed, running through the...

Chelsea Market

Former Nabisco bakeries (where Oreos were invented in 1912) is now a gourmet mall; features independent establishments like Fat Witch brownies, the Green Table organic wine bar, Hugh McMahon the Pumpkin Man, Amy's Bread, Manhattan Fruit Exchange, Buonitalia and much more. Major League Baseball Productions is also based here; the studios of NY1, New York's local cable news channel, relocated here in 2002. The tricky conversion from aging factory to stylish mall was handled by Jeff Vandeberg.

448: Was Neptune Brewing Company, 1990s microbrewery.

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The High Line Park

High Line, NYC: Northern spur, now deadends into building by Vilseskogen, on Flickr

Runs along the western end of this block. There's a branch of the track, inaccessible to visitors, that more resembles the abandoned railway's original state, known as the Northern Spur Preserve. Eden and Finnegan on the High Line by edenpictures, on Flickr












453: Was the home of the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School, founded in 1983 on the principles of Practical Aesthetics developed by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy, founders of the Atlantic Theater Company. It moved to the Port Authority Building up the street in 2006 when developers wanted to take down this building.




431: Highline Ballroom













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Port Authority Building

Port Authority Building by edenpictures, on Flickr

300 (block): This block-filling building, originally known as the Union Inland Terminal No. 1, was built by the Port Authority in 1932 to relieve congestion by consolidating and redistributing truck shipments. When built, it may have had more cubic space than any building in the world--later surpassed by the Pentagon. To make the project self-supporting, the upper floors were designed to be rented out to private businesses, which set a legal precedent for Seagull With Fasces by edenpictures, on Flickr public entities engaging in commercial transactions. It also served as the headquarters for the Port Authority until they were moved to the World Trade Center.

The Atlantic Theater Company Acting School is based here, founded in 1983 on the principles of Practical Aesthetics developed by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy, founders of the Atlantic Theater Company. The school moved here from down the street in 2006. Google New York by testspiel, on Flickr

There's a Banana Republic on the ground floor. Google's New York office occupies the entire 4th floor; it bought the whole building in 2010. The Deutsch, Inc. ad agency has its headquarters here.

308: Symbolist painter Albert Pinkham Ryder lived at this address from 1908-15.

304: This was the address of the Mike Hammer Detective Agency in the 1957 TV show.

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Maritime Hotel

NYC - Chelsea: Maritime Hotel by wallyg, on Flickr

363 (corner): Built in 1966 for the National Maritime Union, featuring porthole-like windows and a sloping setback. Later home to the scandal-ridden Covenant House runaway shelter. Now a nautical-themed hotel, which includes the acclaimed Japanese restaurant Matsuri and the popular La Bottega.

In the post-apocalyptic novel The Dewey Decimal System, this hotel is a center for shady dealings. infinite-EVill by The Guncle, on Flickr

357: No. 8, hard-to-get-into nightclub that's a descendant of Bungalow 8. Was XL, notable gay bar that had a "bathroom with a gay, Poseidon Adventure theme."

355: Dream Downtown

351: Think Tank

335: School of Visual Arts' Fine Arts Department

325: Chisholm Gallery, vintage posters

Corner (131 8th Ave): A Borgish-looking grey building went up at this address in 2008, wiping out almost all the other buildings and businesses on the block. 131 Eighth Avenue by edenpictures, on Flickr The building that used to use this address was The Bistro at Candy Bar, and earlier was the Chelsea Transfer, a early 1980s gay bar that was ahead of the neighborhood's transformation. The corner address used to be 127 8th Avenue; Suite 16 was there, and before that Re-bar.


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Corner: Mary Ann's, Mexican mini-chain

244: Maroons, Jamaican cooking. The Maroons were Africans in Jamaica who had escaped from slavery.

242: Grey Dog Chelsea, coffee, was Purple Passion, fetish clothing now on 20th Street. Chelsea Corners Building II by edenpictures, on Flickr
200 (corner): An orange brick building c. 1930, part of developer Henry Mandel's Chelsea Corners project that aimed to create a white-collar neighborhood along 7th Avenue; hampered by the Depression, only four of a planned 17 buildings were completed.

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245: Riazor, Spanish











200-201 West 16th Street by edenpictures, on Flickr

201 (corner): Another Chelsea Corners building


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160 (corner): Jensen Lewis was Thomasville Home Furnishings

144-148: Italianate rowhouses built 1858.

126: French Evangelical Church was founded in 1848.

New York House and School of Industry

120: Was the headquarters of an organization that taught needletrades (and later typing) to needy women. In 1955, it was sold to the Friends of Hebrew Culture. Now the Young Adults Institute, a home for people with cognitive disabilities. This 1878 building is considered the first Queen Anne-style structure in the city.

114: Critic Edmund Wilson lived here (1919-21) after getting out of the Army. During his stay here he was a lover of Edna St. Vincent Millay and managing editor of Vanity Fair. This was also the home of Alexander Trachtenberg, an American Communist who was indicted for publishing subversive books and pamphlets; his defense committee included the likes of Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. Apparently this block was something of a Red neighborhood in the 1940s and '50s. 555 Sixth Avenue by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner (555 6th Ave): Ugly newish apartments

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Loehmann's

Loehmann's by docjohnboy, on Flickr

Corner (101 7th Ave): Bronx- based discounter's Chelsea outlet. Used to be Barney's, legendary clothing store noted for outre window displays; now on Madison Avenue. The building was part of Henry Mandel's Chelsea Corners project.









575 Sixth Avenue by edenpictures, on Flickr







Corner (575 6th Ave): Terry's Gourmet Foods. The building is dated to 1900.


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Corner (570 6th Ave): Blue Valley Deli & Grocery

St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church

The Church Of St. Francis Xavier by Bjorn1101, on Flickr

30: This imposing edifice was completed in 1882, on the site of an earlier St. Francis Xavier's built in 1850. Founded by Father John Larkin, a Jesuit, and named for the Jesuit saint. Father John Corridan, the mob-fighting priest who inspired the film On the Waterfront, was associated with this church.

Xavier High School, attached to the church, used to also be a four-year college. St. Francis Xavier Church, New York by linkahwai, on Flickr Francis Patrick Duffy, whose statue is in Times Square, taught French here from 1893-98 before he was ordained. Archconservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia graduated first in the Class of 1953 here.

William Cullen Bryant house

24: William Cullen Bryant, poet and editor of the New York Post, lived here from 1867 until his death in 1878. Bryant was instrumental in creating Central Park. Later was the home of Margaret Anderson and jane heap, editors of The Little Review, the magazine that first published James Joyce's Ulysses, in installments from 1918-20. Another contributor, Hart Crane, briefly lived upstairs in this building.

16: The Chelsea Lane apartments are on the former site of New York Hospital.

4: Pure Cells New York, "cosmetic technology"

Corner (108 5th Ave): An odd post-modern building designed by Rothzeid, Kaiserman, Thompson & Bee and opened in 1986. Paul Smith, British fashion, has "best guy shopping," according to Time Out New York. They mean rich guys.

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Hollywood Diner by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner (574 6th Ave): Hollywood Diner is in a fanciful 1904 building that was originally the Knickerbocker Jewelry Co.

55: The Common Ground II, Native American art



41: Joni Mitchell wrote "Chelsea Morning" here--the Clintons named their daughter after the song.




17-23: These c. 1845 Greek Revival row houses are NYC landmarks. No. 17 was Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau.

15: The Center for Jewish History has in its collection the original hand-written copy of Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus" ("Give me your tired, your poor..."). Formerly the Helen Keller Institute was here.

5-9: More landmarked row houses from the 1840s. In 1972, No. 5 was Beautiful Boys Unlimited, a gay brothel that advertised, "We promise you if you come once, you'll come again." 

3: Young Israel

Judge Building

Judge Building by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner (110 5th Ave): Esprit (formerly Emporio Armani) is on the ground floor of a striking, large-arched McKim, Mead and White building that was built in 1888 to house Judge, a sophisticated, pro-Republican humor magazine founded by ex-staffers of Puck. The building replaced the Athenaeum Club.


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Corner (81 5th Ave): Was Behr Hall, a concert space

Corner (79 5th Ave): A 16-story building by Albert S. Gottlieb, completed 1907, houses Coach, Artistic Tile, etc. Built on the site of Mayor George Opdyke's house; draft rioters tried to burn it down twice in 1863.

10: Chat 'N Chew, faux diner

16: Sidney Hillman Health Center was designed by R.H. Robertson in 1890 as the YWCA's Margaret Louisa Home, paid for by Cornelius Vanderbilt's eldest daughter. Sidney Hillman was president of the garment workers' union (1914-46), a founder of the CIO and an important political ally of FDR. Upstairs is the New York City Free Clinic, run by NYU. On the ground floor is Steak Frites; in the 1980s, this was Espace, which appears in the film American Psycho: "I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Espace since I'm positive we won't have a decent table, but we do, and relief washes over me in an awesome wave."

18: Sound by Singer, high-end audio. In 1872, this was the address of the Allemania Club. The Apprentices' Library, run by the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, moved here in 1878.

20: University Market Place

30: World Room, Coffee Shop annex Coffee Shop Bar by GmanViz, on Flickr

Corner (29 Union Square West): Union Square Coffee Shop, retro fashion model hangout. Popular with the Sex and the City group.

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Corner (85 5th Ave): Anthropologie, women's fashions; was B. Shackman Favors & Novelties. On site of the home (1886-88) of Levi Parson Morton, a congressmember and governor who became vice president under Benjamin Harrison.

9-11: The 1896 building that houses Steak Frites is described by the AIA Guide as "terra cotta candy cane."





21: Union Square Cafe, the most popular restaurant in New York, according to Zagat. Bank of the Metropolis by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner (31 Union Square West): Blue Water Grill, noted seafood, is also featured on Sex and the City. The building was Bank of the Manhattan Company; later a Parsons School of Design dorm. On September 15, 1984, Michael Stewart was beaten to death in front of this building by the NYPD for the crime of writing with magic marker on a subway wall. The cops were all acquitted.


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Union Square Park

Union Square Morning by edenpictures, on Flickr Union Square Morning by edenpictures, on Flickr

Union Square was not named for the North or for labor, but for the fact that Broadway here meets and briefly converges with the Bowery (now 4th Avenue), once Broadway's rival as NYC's main street. In the city plan of 1811, Broadway was supposed to be eliminated north of 14th Street, permanently uniting it with Fourth Avenue. Fortunately, NYC was unable to raise money to reroute Broadway, saving Manhattan above Downtown from complete predictability.

Union Square has a rich political history: 250,000 gathered to support Union during Civil War (1861), largest crowd ever assembled in North America up to that point. Here was the first U.S. labor day parade (September 5, 1882); Emma Goldman's arrest for telling unemployed to steal bread (1893); funeral march for Triangle Shirtwaist Fire victims (1911); protests against Sacco & Vanzetti's execution (1927) and the Rosenbergs' (1953). After the destruction of the World Trade Center, Union Square became the site of an impromptu memorial and peace vigil.

Independence Flagstaff

NYC - Union Square: Independence Flagstaff - Tyranny

The flagpole in the center of the square, with a base by Anthony de Francisi and a quote from Jefferson about how we don't know how good we have it. Francisi's bas reliefs depict the subversion of democracy by empire; they're really quite radical. (Officially the flagpole is dedicated to Tammany Hall leader Charles F. Murphy, but public sentiment dissuaded the city from elevating the machine boss to the level of Lincoln and Washington.)

Statue of Lafayette

Lafayette in Spring by edenpictures, on Flickr

By Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty; he made this statue to remind New York of Franco-American friendship as part of his campaign to raise money for Liberty's pedestal. It seems like it ought to be facing the park rather than Fourth Avenue--as Lafayette is depicted offering his sword to Washington, whose statue is in the opposite direction.

Pavillion

NYC - Union Square - Pavilion by wallyg, on Flickr

This structure dates to 1932. An outdoor restaurant, Luna Park, serves the cell-phone set here during summer months. There's been activism against "privatizing" this space, but there's been a for-profit business here for quite some time.

Statue of Lincoln

Lincoln in Union Square I  by edenpictures, on Flickr

Created in 1868 just three years after Lincoln's murder, by Henry Kirke Brown, who also worked on the statue of Washington at the south end of the park. It used to be where the Gandhi statue is now, and it used to be surrounded by a fence inscribed ''with malice toward none; charity toward all'' from his Second Inaugural Address. Lincoln's body lay in state in Union Square on April 24, 1865, before being taken to City Hall.


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IMG_20100722_172806.jpg by ursonate, on Flickr

Corner: Was Zen Palate, styley vegetarian. A friend got a serious nut-allergy reaction when eating here once, and they tried to make us pay for his (mostly uneaten) meal. It's since been transformed into a corporate

108: Oasis Day Spa; Italian Wine Merchants. Cool Dr. Moreau-like faces on the building.

116: Candela; romantic, candle-lit Japanese/Italian

Corner (33 Irving): Building with The Cottage, pleasant Chinese restaurant, also houses The Nation, the oldest U.S. magazine (since 1865; at this address since 1998). Over the years its contributors have included the likes of Henry James, Leon Trotsky, H.L. Mencken, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, I.F. Stone, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and Hunter S. Thompson.

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103: in the 1950s and '60s, was the Carl Fischer Musical Instrument Co.

105: Was the address of Crown Coat Fronts, a textile firm that in 1967 brought a case to the U.S. Supreme Court that involved the statute of limitations on government contract disputes.




Human Resources Administration

Human Resources Administration by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner: This foreboding city government building is on the site of the Westminster Hotel, where in 1876 the Westminster Kennel Club was formed. The club's Westminster Show has been held continuously since 1877.


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34 Irving Place by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner (34 Irving): Spokesman Cycles, a bike shop, was

128: Painter Winslow Homer lived here in 1859.

136: Building from 1850.


142: Gramercy Spire, apartment tower with faux Chinese lettering

Corner (162 3rd Ave): Natural Green Market, health-food store

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Washington Irving High School

Washington Irving High School by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner: Built in 1911-13 as the Girls' Technical High School, its students have included actors Claudette Colbert and Whoopi Goldberg. Said to have a beautiful interior.

135: Sleepy Hollow Preschool is housed in the high school.

145 (corner): Washington Irving House, ugly white-brick apartments


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East 16th Street by edenpictures, on Flickr

208: Fineson House

212-216: Kelley House. No. 214 was the home and studio of artist Joseph Stella.

222: Friends Seminary is a quaker school (K-12) founded in 1786. It's been at this location since 1860, but the present building dates to 1963.

Friends Meetinghouse

Friends Seminary by edenpictures, on Flickr

226 (corner): A beautiful brick building built in 1860 by the Hicksites, a group of Quakers who separated from the main congregation to pursue more traditional forms of worship. The two groups reconciled in 1958, resulting in the closing of the meetinghouse on Gramercy Park (now a synagogue).

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Corner: Joe Junior, old-school hamburger joint 205 East 16th Street by edenpictures, on Flickr

205-207: Formerly St. George Memorial House, an 1886 gift from financier J.P. Morgan to the church. Now apartments.

209: Pierce House, St. George's parish house, described by the AIA Guide as "a late medieval Germanic tower."

St. George's Church

St. George's Church by edenpictures, on Flickr Corner: This Episcopal church, built from 1846-56, is an official NYC landmark for its notable Early Romanesque Revival architecture. Once one of the wealthiest congregations in the country, with J.P. Morgan as a notable parishioner. Harry Burleigh, a soloist in the choir here for 52 years, helped win academic respect for African-American music through his friendship with Antonin Dvorak. Kay Leiland Strong is married here in the novel The Group.

RUTHERFORD PLACE


Stuyvesant Square

Stuyvesant Square Fountain by edenpictures, on Flickr

The land for this park was donated to St. George's Church by Peter G. Stuyvesant, Peter Stuyvesant by joseph a, on Flickr a descendant of the Dutch colonial governor, and turned into an English-style park in 1836. Somehow it's failed to become the kind of vibrant public space represented by Union, Tompkins, Washington or even Madison squares; perhaps it's the bisection by 2nd Avenue, or the forbidding if historic fence. Maybe the neighborhood, dominated by hospitals, just isn't so lively.

The western half of the park features a 1936 sculpture of Governor Stuyvesant by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Ironically, he's facing the meeting house of the Quakers, a denomination he persecuted in life.

There's also a rather lethargic fountain.


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Stuyvesant Square

Antonin Dvorak by edenpictures, on Flickr

The eastern half of the park includes a dog run. It also has a statue of composer Antonin Dvorak, which was put up in compensation when Beth Israel tore down his nearby house on 17th Street.


PERLMAN PLACE

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Beth Israel Over Stuyvesant Square by edenpictures, on Flickr

Corner: Was the New York Infirmary, a 1950 modernist statement by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill that has not aged well. Now the Bernstein Pavilion of Beth Israel Hospital.

High School for Health Professions

Old Stuyvesant Campus by edenpictures, on Flickr

(331 E 15th): This is the back entrance to what used to be Stuyvesant High School, one of New York's top public high schools. Founded in 1904 as a vocational school for boys, it moved here in 1907, and to a new building near the World Trade Center in 1992.

Its students have included four Nobel laureates; writers like Lewis Mumford, Richard H. Price and Hubert Selby; musicians like Thelonious Monk and Steely Dan's Walter Stuyvesant Face by edenpictures, on Flickr Becker; actors including James Cagney, George Raft, Tim Robbins and Lucy Liu, along with classic filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

The political figures who come out of Stuy are a surprisingly right-leaning lot, including Dick Morris, Roy Innis, Thomas Sowell, Samuel P. Huntington, Ron Silver and Albert Shanker--though Obama adviser David Axelrod and Manhattan Rep. Jerry Nadler are graduates too.

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Beth Israel Medical Center

Beth Israel Medical Center by edenpictures, on Flickr

Founded in 1890 on the Lower East Side to serve Jewish immigrants, Beth Israel ("House of Israel") moved here in 1929. It incorporated the neighboring Manhattan General Hospital in 1964. It's now part of Continuum Health Partners, a nonprofit partnership that includes Roosevelt Hospital, St. Luke's and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. It's the university hospital for the Manhattan campus of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, affiliated with Yeshiva University. Yeshiva asked Einstein if they could use his name after he expressed admiration for the school's intention to "welcome students of all creeds and races."

My family has spent rather too much time in Beth Israel's emergency room.













Beth Israel Medical Center by edenpictures, on Flickr







Corner (295 1st Ave): The tall building is Beth Israel's Linsky Pavilion.


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Stuyvesant Town

Stuyvesant town by -AX-, on Flickr

Built in the late 1940s by Met Life Insurance Co. as affordable housing for World War II vets; the private development had a great deal of public support, organized by city power broker Robert Moses. Eighteen city blocks containing 600 buildings were leveled for the project. Stuyvesant Town, NYC. by Matthew Kraus, on Flickr

When Met Life sold it, along with Peter Cooper Village -- a total of 110 apartment buildings -- for $5.4 billion in 2006, it was reportedly the biggest real estate transaction in history...and perhaps the worst, since it was negotiated just as the housing bubble was about to pop. The purchaser was Tishman Speyer Properties, a real estate group that owned Rockefeller Center, among other things. Failing in a scheme to convert rent-stablized apartments to market rate, Tishman Speyer turned over the property to its creditors in 2010 to avoid bankruptcy.

Built on the site of the notorious Gashouse District, where fumes from chemical plants kept out Summer Sun Shower in Stuyvesant Town by Marianne O'Leary, on Flickr all but the poorest immigrants. The home turf of the Gashouse Gang, a tough crew that specialized in robbing other gangs, since there was so little to steal in their own neighborhood. Stuyvesant Town by AP..., on Flickr

The development is named for Peter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam's one-legged governor, who owned most of the land in this neighborhood. Autocratic, anti-democratic and intolerant, he was something of a 17th Century Giuliani. Earlier the mansion called Petersfield could be found here, less than one block east of 1st Avenue between 15th and 16th streets. It was the home of Petrus Stuyvesant, a descendant of Peter.

Notable residents of Stuyvesant Town have included writers Frank McCourt, Mary Higgins Clark and David Brooks, Obama adviser David Axelrod and actor Paul Reiser.


          FDR DRIVE          




EAST RIVER







Is your favorite Sixteenth Street spot missing? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

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