Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Urban Gadabout: A fall gadding preview, Part 1


With Wolfe Walkers update: Oh no, it's the final season!

Yes! On Oct 22 Jack Eichenbaum is doing another of his day-long explorations of a single NYC subway line -- this time the L train.

by Ken

With the Municipal Art Society's Sept-Oct schedule already up and open to registration and with early (members-only) registration for the New York Transit Museum's fall schedule having begun this morning, we're already late for a fall gadding preview if we're ever going to do one. We'll get back to them, but I want to start with what for me is the fall highlight, another of urban geographer Jack Eichenbaum's all-day excursions built around a subway line, this time the L train, especially timely as its Manhattan-to-Brooklyn link is about to be shut down for 18 months for rehabilitation of its Sandy-damaged East River tunnel.


Jack, who's the Queens borough historian, always calls his day-long exploration of and along the #7 (Flushing) line his "signature tour" (you may recall that he recently did a wholly revamped version), but I've also spent days with him on the J train and the Q (Brighton Line). So I whipped out my checkbook when he announced this to his mailing list (which you should sign up for on his website, Geography of New York with Jack Eichenbaum):

[Click to enlarge.]

Life and Art Along the L Train
Sat, Oct 22, 10am-5:30 pm

Since its expansion to 8th Avenue in Manhattan in the 1930s, the L line has stimulated gentrification along its route which traverses three boroughs. We explore the West Village and meatpacking district -- including a portion of the new Highline Park -- and on to the East Village, Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood noting the continuous transformation of each of these neighborhoods, stimulated by the movement of artists.

This tour requires registration and payment in advance and is restricted to 25 participants. Fee $49. For a complete prospectus, email The L train will soon be shut down for repairs; join this tour prior to that.

Note that Jack is also doing a half-day outing on the J train:
A Day on the J
Sat, Sept 17, 10:30am-1:30pm

The J train enabled the crowded masses of the Lower East Side to move to Brooklyn and Queens. Elevated from the Williamsburg Bridge crossing until Jamaica, the ride provides diverse views of industrial and bucolic landscapes. This tour concentrates on the portion of the J train within Queens. Walks take place in commercial and historic downtown Jamaica, residential Victorian Richmond Hill and residential Woodhaven ending at historic Neir’s tavern, NYC’s oldest bar. At Neir’s enjoy a prix fixe lunch or drink and eat as you wish.

This tour requires registration and payment in advance and is restricted to 25 participants. Fee $25. For a complete prospectus, email

In addition, as usual Jack has been doing Wednesday-evening tours in Queens this summer. Still to come are:

Wed, Aug 24, 6-8pm, Corona Circuit
Wed, Sept 14, 5-7pm, Roosevelt Island Bridge and Four Freedoms Park

Check out the "Public Tour Schedule" page on Jack's website.


For some time now, the peerless Justin has been doing most of his public tours with Wolfe Walkers, and he just sent out an advance notice of the fall season that's about to be announced. When it is announced, it should be findable on the Wolfe Walkers page of his website, but the surest way to get up-to-date info is by being on Justin's mailing list. As I point out frequently, Justin's mailing list is an indispensable (free) resource for information not just about tours but about goings-on generally in NYC. He sends out a lot of stuff, but I can say that I never ignore one of his pass-alongs.

Meanwhile, here's the schedule as Justin sent it out in his advance notice (but see the UPDATE below):

Sunday, Sept 18, 3-6pm: Williamsburg -- The Land of the Chasidim (Rabbi David Kalb of the Jewish Learning Center of New York, with Justin on hand)
Saturday, Oct. 1, 10am-3pm: Fordham Museum of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities + Fordham University + Belmont (Arthur Ave. Little Italy)
Sat, Oct 8, 9:40am-2pm: United Palace Theatre and the New High Bridge
Sat, Oct 22, 11am-4pm: Broad Channel (Queens) and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (with Justin and Don Riepe, director of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society)
Sat, Oct 29, 7:45am-6pm: BUS: City Island and Bartow-Pell Mansion (with lunch at the Lobster Box on City Island)
Sun, Nov 6, 11:30am-2:30pm: Socrates Sculpture Park and the Isamu Noguchi Museum (Astoria, Queens)
Sun, Nov 13, 9:45am-6pm: Upper Montclair (NJ) Historic District and Stained Glass Tour (with Justin and Ron Rice)
Sat, Dec 17, 12n-3pm: Holiday Brunch at Pete’s Tavern, with Stanford White lecture by Justin

UPDATE: Justin has now sent out the Wolfe Walkers Fall 2016 brochure, and I've added the schedule information to the above listings. You can download a pdf of the brochure here.

The startling news (startling to me, at least) comes at the end of the brochure, where there's a full-page "Personal Note from Justin" followed by a two-page history of the Wolfe Walkers. In the "personal note" Justin tells a much fuller version of a story I first heard him tell when he suddenly realized that he'd been doing Wolfe Walkers longer than Gerard Wolfe. He tells how the dark depression he was experiencing over what was seeming an ill-advised move to New York City was turned around by his first contact with Professor Wolfe and the Wolfe Walkers. The part I especially love about the story is that it turned on Justin's habit-- and I can't tell you how much I love this -- of sending a thank-you note whenever he enjoys a book by a living author, on the theory that the author will have endured plenty of carping and nitpicking.

It was his discovery of the Wolfe Walkers, Justin says, that led him to fall in love with New York, "and I owe it all to Gerard Wolfe." He continues:
I have never been able to fully thank Gerard for the many, many years of pleasure he instigated for me. When Gerard left New York, his followers were bereft, so they asked me if I would continue in Gerard’s footsteps (literally). I’ve never regretted doing so.

The Wolfe Walkers have provided me with decades of warm, embracing, and exciting adventures. Hopefully, I’ve been able to provide the Wolfe Walkers with many of those same qualities in the countless tours I’ve created over that time.

Now, time continues in its steady pace. In January, I will be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It will be
difficult to say “Goodbye.” As most of you know, my love for New York City is palpable.
He goes on to thank Gerard "for your countless gifts" and "all of you Wolfe Walkers for joining me in our many, many adventures over the decades."

And all I can think -- once past the "Oh no, say it ain't so" stage -- is: No, thank you, Justin.

With the schedule heads-up Justin sent out earlier, I was able to juggle my schedule, with no idea that this would be the final Wolfe Walkers season, to be able to do all but two of the events -- one of them I've already done but would happily have done again if I didn't have a schedule conflict. (That's the Broad Channel/Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge tour with Justin and probably the best-known Jamaica Bay preservation activist, Don Riepe.) So my registrations are in the mail. Now I have to figure out how I thank Justin for everything I've learned thanks to him.


There is, as usual, a tremendously broad assortment of offerings -- at $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Remember that with your modestly priced membership (starting at $50 for an Individual Membership, $40 for seniors over 62), you also get a voucher for a free tour, so membership -- in addition to supporting an invaluable civic organization -- should be pretty much self-recommending.)

It's probably just me, but the tour that really popped out for me is Exploring the Hunts Point Peninsula, Sept 10, with Jean Arrington. Jean is best known as the ranking authority on the citywide deluge of schools built by the legendary C.B.J. Snyder but is also known to step out to interesting areas of "her" borough, the Bronx. Thanks to Open House New York I've been able to tour several of the big Hunts Point food markets, and couldn't help wondering what else goes on on that peninsula sticking out from the South Bronx.

Check out all the listings, but I can say that I get itchy if I go too long without doing a tour with Matt Postal, who's doing Lower Manhattan Skyscrapers, and Brooklyn's Waterfront, Oct. 13, and of course the tours of Tony Robins, Mr. Art Deco, like Art Deco of Central Park West, Oct. 16, are self-recommending. I call attention, especially for people who've never done a walk in the company of that amazing sweetheart Joe Svehlak, to his Atlantic Avenue (Brooklyn), Sept 3, and Nassau Street (Manhattan), Oct 30.

You don't have to remember the MAS Tours link; just go to and click on "Tours." These Sept-Oct tours still had openings as of writing.

every Fri and Sat, 12:30pm: Tour34: Empire to Penn (with the 34th Street Partnership)
Sat, Sept 3, 10am: Historic Atlantic Avenue (Joe Svehlak)
Fri, Sept 9, 12:30pm: Reflecting Absence: The 9/11 Memorial (Judith Pucci)
Saturday, Sept 10, 2pm, Exploring the Hunts Point Peninsula (Jean Arrington)
Sun, Sept 11, 2pm: Downtown Brooklyn, Part 1: The Department Store District (Francis Morrone) [Note: Part 2, on Oct 23, is already sold out, like Francis's other Sept-Oct tours. I'm surprised there'a still space for Part 1, and wouldn't expect this to remain for long.]
Sun, Sept 11, 2pm: The Theaters of Greenwich Village (Laurence Frommer)
Sat, Sept 17, 11am: Vanderbilt Mansions (Jason Stein)
Sun, Sept 18, 2pm: Jewish History of the Lower East Side (Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy)
Sat, Sept 24, 11am: Before the Code: Lower Manhattan Skyscrapers (Matt Postal)
Sun, Sept 25, 12n: Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (James and Karla Murray)
Sat, Oct 1, 11am: The Arc of the Beat: From West to East Villages Across Six Decades (Ron Janoff)
Sun, Oct 2, 2pm: Public Art of Lower Manhattan: An Outdoor Gallery Hiding in Plain View (Patrick Waldo)
Sat, Oct 8, 11am: Exploring Historic Jackson Heights (Meredith Toback)
Sun, Oct 9, 2pm: The Italian South Village (Laurence Frommer)
Sat, Oct 15, 11am: Preserving Brooklyn's Waterfront (Matt Postal)
Sat, Oct 15, 1pm: Subway Art Tour 2 (Phil Desiere)
Sun, Oct 16, 2pm: Art Deco of Central Park West (Anthony W. Robins)
Sat, Oct 22, 12:30pm: Exploring City College (Dalton Whiteside)
Sun, Oct 23, 2pm: Pre-Halloween Prospect Park South and Flatbush (Norman Oder)
Sat, Oct 29, 2pm: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: American Cultural Primacy and the Preservation of Our Architectural Treasures (Deobrah Zelcer)
Sat, Oct 29, 11am: Walk the QueensWay (Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay)
Sun, Oct 30, 11am: Downtown Manhattan's Nassau Street (Joe Svehlak)


As noted at the outset, registration for the fall schedule is already in progress for members. Information and registration now happen on NYTM's own brand-ew website. Find program information, beginning with the Aug 27 all-day nostalgia ride "To the Rockaways by Rail," on the "Programs" page. Note that some NYTM tours, like the ever-popular "Jewel in the Crown: Old City Hall Station," are members-only.

On offer for fall, at various dates:

Jewel in the Crown: Old City Hall Station (members only, some dates remaining)
Transit Walk: A Trip to Coney Island
Behind the Scenes: Jerome Avenue Yard (members only, all sold out)
Evening Ride to Woodlawn Cemetery, Oct. 29, 4-9pm
Underground Inspiration: from Art to Artifact


OHNY, whose mission is to give New Yorkers access to noteworthy sites not normally open to us, and also increasingly to give us peeks at the process by which new projects in the city are planned and executed, has events going on around the calendar, aimed mostly (but not exclusively) at members, so keep an eye on the website and get on the mailing list. (Check here for "Upcoming Programs," and check out membership info here.)

Of course OHNY is best known for the annual OHNY Weekend, when zillions of events will be scheduled all around the city at minimal cost, setting the stage for the opening-gun melee that is OHNY registration. As I always say, the most popular events -- the ones everyone will be gunning for -- are by no means necessarily the most interesting, and the interest level is deep enough that the sane people among us can generally come away happy with our fifth or sixth choices.

So by all means mark the dates: Sat-Sun, Oct 15-16, and keep an eye on the "Weekend" page of the website (link above). The tricky thing is that the full schedule isn't announced until barely before the actual event. (a slight advance look at the schedule is members' only advantage here.)

One interesting option is to offer service as a volunteer. OHNY has just put out a "Call for Volunteers":
Call for Volunteers

Are you passionate about architecture, design, and history? Want to share your love for New York City with others? Open House New York invites you to join our team of more than 1,000 volunteers who help make Open House New York Weekend one of New York's most exciting events!

Every year, OHNY Weekend opens the doors of hundreds of incredible buildings and sites across the five boroughs of New York City, offering an extraordinary opportunity to experience the city and meet the people who design, build, and preserve New York. Through the unparalleled access that it enables, OHNY Weekend deepens our understanding of the importance of architecture and design to fostering a more vibrant civic life, and helps catalyze a citywide conversation about how to build a better New York.

OHNY Weekend volunteers are integral to the festival's success. Volunteers are assigned to one of more than 250 sites or tours and provide support by welcoming visitors from around New York and around the world, assisting with check-in, managing lines, and acting as a representative of Open House New York. Volunteer for one shift (typically four hours) and receive a 2016 limited edition OHNY Weekend t-shirt, as well as a volunteer button that gives you and a friend front-of-the-line access to sites that do not require reservations throughout the Weekend.

Sign up today to volunteer for Open House New York Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, 2016! For more information visit or email us at
(Note: As the volunteer link reminds us, OHNY is also on the lookout for volunteers for its programs year-round.)


Myra Alperson's Noshwalks (as noted) plus a couple more tour purveyors I meant to include here.

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