Bronx, Richmond, Queens, And Brooklyn
( Originally Published 1940 )
Of the five boroughs of New York by far the most famous is Manhattan. Here are grouped most of the best sights, the greatest hotels and restaurants, and the theaters, and here most visitors spend all their time.
It is a pity that they should do so, for there are many worth-while things in the other four boroughs as well, and this chapter is an attempt to make you go and see at least a few of them.
The Borough of the Bronx on the mainland north of Manhattan has many points of interest, of which probably the greatest to the visitor is the ZOOLOGICAL PARK in Bronx Park, known generally as the BRONX PARK ZOO. This amazing place is most easily reached by any West Side subway express marked "180th Street Bronx Park." Sit still until you reach the end of the line, and you will be practically at the gates of the Zoo.
There are 264 acres in the tract, 14 miles of road, 14 large animal houses, and 10 small ones. Usually there are over 450 mammals, 1,700 birds, and 400 reptiles and amphibians. The collections are not only of immense value, but are wonderfully displayed. Many collections are. unique, particularly the one of living birds, which is the largest and most varied in the world.
The houses are of excellent architecture, and the sculptural decorations are a guide to the varied collections housed within them. On account of its huge size, the Z00 is no place to hurry through. There are good restaurants within the grounds.
The Zoo is open daily from 10 A.M. until one-half hour be-fore sunset. Admission is free except on Mondays and Thursdays when there is a fee of 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. If Monday or Thursday happens to be a holiday, the Zoo is free.
The NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN iS also in Bronx Park, but on account of the size of the Park, it is more easily reached by train from the Grand Central or 125th Street to either Fordham or Botanical Garden Station.
In addition to the year-round displays of rare flowers and palms in the conservatories, the Garden is a superb outdoor flower show from April to the first frost of late October or early November. Among the greatest displays are the THOMPSON MEMORIAL ROCK GARDEN, at its best in May and June; the ROSE GARDEN, in early June and again in October; and the various seasonal bloomings all summer long. To anyone with the faintest liking for flowers, the Botanical Garden is an obligatory sight. Admission is free. The Garden is open daily from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. in summer, and 4:30 P.M. in winter.
On account of their proximity, many people try to combine visits to the Bronx Z00 and the Botanical Garden. I think that this is a mistake, except for those sightseers who are not only enthusiastic but athletic. These two sights are both too huge to be combined without excessive fatigue, for a good deal of walking is required.
BRONX PARK itself is officially a tract of 719 acres, but the Bronx River Parkway and its extension actually carry the Park nearly to Peekskill, some forty miles to the north!
Adjoining the Botanical Garden are the grounds and buildings of FORDHAM UNIVERSITY and HOSPITAL, under the aegis of the Catholic Church. Established in 1841, the University now has a teaching staff of over 250 and an enrollment of over 6,000 students. The School of Medicine is operated in conjunction with the Hospital.
The GRAND CONCOURSE is the principal street of the Bronx, and at the southern end of the Concourse, in a commanding position, is the modern-style BRONX COUNTY COURT BUILDING, much admired for its architecture. Also in the Bronx is the YANKEE STADIUM, to be visited only to see one of the events held there. And if you are still desirous of seeing more parks, at the extreme northeastern end of the borough are the 2,124 acres of PELHAM BAY PARK, still largely left in a natural state.
The Borough of Richmond, better known as STATEN ISLAND, is reached by ferry from the Battery (South Ferry) in about twenty minutes. The fare is 5 cents. The Island is 15.5 miles long and 7 miles wide, and although part of New York City, it still has a surprisingly rural aspect. It also contains the highest point in the city, TODT HILL, which is also the highest point directly on the sea south of Maine—although it is only a little over 400 feet high at that.
Staten Island has its old houses, notably the BILLOPP HOUSE, built in 1665, and the AUSTIN HOUSE, built in 1710. It is also the home of the famous SAILOR'S SNUG HARBOR, a refuge for old sea-men, and has two small but interesting museums, that of the Staten Island Historical Society and of the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences.
The Island is almost entirely residential, many of the houses being the property of families who have owned them for generations. It is a delightful community in which to live, but offers little to any but the most assiduous sightseer.
The huge Borough of Queens, that immense area of manufactories and residences, like Richmond offers little to the visitor. While the residential sections of Jackson Heights, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, and Flushing are well known, they consist chiefly of miles of small homes and large apartment houses. A place of interest to the visitor is Flushing Meadows—the site of the 1939-1940 World's Fair.
The Borough of Brooklyn, with a population of over two and three quarters millions of people, was a city in its own right, and an important one, until it was incorporated into Greater New York in 1898. Here there are many things to see, the most famous sight being one of the most distant.
CONEY ISLAND, reached by B.M.T! subway from Times Square, by buses from Times Square, or by boats from the Battery, is not only the greatest amusement center of its kind in the world, but is one of the great sights of the world in the summertime. You have not seen New York until you have seen the beach at Coney Island some hot Sunday afternoon. Here is recreation in the mass by and for the masses. The beach is so packed that it is difficult to see the sand. The ocean to about waist deep is so crowded that it is hard to see the water's edge. It is not a pretty sight, but a most instructive one. It is frequently estimated that on a hot Sunday Coney Island will attract over a million visitors.
The Island is roughly divided into three areas, Coney Island (jammed), Brighton Beach (only overcrowded), and Manhattan Beach (crowded). But unless the wind blows directly and strongly from the ocean, don't expect any sea breezes. The prevailing smell will be hot, buttered popcorn.
One of the nearer sights of Brooklyn, the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights, has already been mentioned. On BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, that bold bluff looking out over the harbor, stand the residences of Brooklyn's oldest aristocracy. Some are now being converted into apartments, the rents reflecting accurately the glory of the views from the living-room windows!
The BROOKLYN INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES is responsible for the upkeep of many cultural features of the borough. Not only does it maintain the Brooklyn Museum (see page 78) and conduct various courses of music and entertainment at the ACADEMY OF MUSIC, but it has its own BOTANIC GAR-DENS, a rival of those in the Bronx. Here, in addition to various flower displays, is the JAPANESE GARDEN, the most perfect ex-ample of a garden of that kind to be found in any American park.
PROSPECT PARK is nearly as large as Central Park, and to me more beautiful. Prospect Park Plaza is the principal entrance, and here stands the great Civil War VICTORY ARCH, surmounted by one of .MacMonnie's finest groups, surpassed only by his two equestrian groups at the Ocean Parkway entrance.
GREENWOOD CEMETERY iS reached most easily by the Fifth Avenue line of the Brooklyn Elevated Railway from Brooklyn Bridge. Greenwood is by far the most elaborate cemetery in America, and here rest many of the nation's illustrious dead, among them Peter Cooper, Henry George, H. B. Claflin, and Charles T. Yerkes.