Along the East river, part 3

Walk in NYC # 6, along the East River part 3, is a 3 miles self-guided tour that goes from Roosevelt Island to Astoria, off the beaten path.

It will take you 2 hours of strolling and taking photos, more if you visit the museum on the way. It can be combined with Walk in NYC # 5 if you don’t mind a much longer outing.

You’ll go through industrial and residential areas; you’ll have beautiful views of the East River; you’ll see intriguing sculptures and colorful murals.

Highlights: Blackwell House, Covenant Church, Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, Roosevelt Island Bridge, Ravenswood Power Station, Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Welling Court murals, Astoria Park, Wards and Randall Islands, Robert Kennedy Bridge, Hell Gate Bridge and Greek orthodox churches.

Metro: Roosevelt Island, line F (departure) and Ditmars, lines N & W (end).

Bus: use an app like Citymapper to find the best options with bus #, waiting time, list of stops, and where you are in the city once you’ve boarded.  Your Metrocard or OMNY account will work and will be valid for transfers to the Metro and other buses. Express buses are more expensive, but you can buy your ticket at the stop. The drivers are generally very helpful!

Good to know: there will be few places to eat along this trek except at the end. You’ll find benches in the parks, but the restrooms are scare. Try the metro station at the beginning, the museum, and Astoria Park.

A: When coming out of Roosevelt Island Metro Station, turn right and follow W Rd towards the center of the island.

You will be in the middle of trees and post-modern residential buildings, in a quiet street without much traffic.

In front of you and to the left, you’ll see the Queensboro Bridge, some Manhattan skyscrapers, and the cable car.

Once you reach Main St., don’t miss the Blackwell House on your right. It’s one of oldest houses in NYC, built by the 1st European owners of the island.

A little further, trees will give way to concrete and you will soon be under arches with shops and above you, apartments duplex.

Incongruous in this setting, but giving it an air of small village, the Covenant church will be on your left in the middle of a place with trees and benches.

A little further to your right, after a school, you’ll find the Roosevelt bridge with its red metal structure. It connects the island to Astoria.

Take the elevator or the stairs to the 4th floor to find the pedestrian crossing; it will take you over the river and offer you views of the impressive electrical installations of the Ravenswood plant.

At the end, graffitis, garages with bright colors and painted signs will tell you that you are now in the Queens borough.

B: Turn left and follow the avenue for a moment. You’ll walk along the walls of the power station and some vacant lots waiting for construction work, probably wondering why you are here.

Patience, once past Rainey Park, somewhat barren but with nice views to the river, you’ll see the Noguchi museum on your right, at the beginning of 33rd Rd.

It is a serene and minimalist place with exhibitions of contemporary art from Japan. Don’t miss it if you have time.

C: Right after it, on Vernon Blvd but on you left, the Socrates Park houses original sculptures and what looks like a metal sculpture workshop. From the banks of the river, you can see the Roosevelt Island lighthouse.

Next, continue on Vernon Blvd along Hallet’s Cove and its tiny beach with, more or less in front of you, the terminus of the Astoria ferry line.

For the price of a metro ticket, you could take a ferry back to Roosevelt Island or to lower Manhattan (they run every hour or half hour depending on the time of day) but keep that in mind for later because, once Vernon Blvd turns right and join Astoria Bvld, you will reach the Welling Court Mural Project.

D: The graffiti and murals surely overflowed from the original project as they are everywhere around this place, of all styles and colors.  A little further, they circle a set of communal gardens, the Two Coves Community Garden.

You can easily spend 30 minutes exploring the adjacent streets to see what the artists have painted.

Once it’s done, find Astoria Blvd again and take the 12th St. on your left, right after the gardens.

You’ll go up to “The Hills”, a once up-and-coming place that looks a little like a village with its brick-and-gravel house with white painted wrought-iron fences. Here and there, there are some beautiful colonial-style colonnade houses, including a Greek Orthodox Church at the intersection of 27th Ave.

Next, take the 26th Ave to the right to reach 14th St which you’ll take to the left for another glimpse of the neighborhood and other beautiful homes.

E: Astoria Park will then be in front of you.

It’s one of the largest green spaces in Queens with unique views of the river and two imposing bridges connecting Astoria to Wards and Randalls Islands, then Harlem. The one for cars is called the Robert Kennedy Bridge, the one for train is called the Hell Gate.

You’ll also find benches, bocce and tennis courts, and the largest and oldest outdoor pool in New York City.

Go under the Kennedy Bridge and go up some stairs to see the pool from above, then leave the park at 23rd Ave.

F: You’ll enter another quiet residential area: follow the avenue to 26th St., and take it to your left to see another Greek Orthodox church, this time the largest and oldest of the US Calendarist churches.

G: Then go back to 23rd Ave and follow it to 31st St. and Ditmars Metro Station, the end of this walk.

The station will be on your left, in the middle of other murals, and you won’t miss it as this metro line is elevated and gives a surprising character to the street (not necessarily to the taste of the inhabitants, though).

If you’re looking for Greek restaurants – after all, you’re in the right neighborhood, they’ll be on 31st St. or a little further on Ditmars Blvd to the right.

To know more about the History of Astoria, and especially the Greek immigration there, you can have a look at a book called Greeks in Queens.

Before you go, don’t forget your guide and see how to thank him at the bottom of the page. Then enjoy the rest of your day!

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