Snow accumulation on Tuesday night, March 14 2017

The Snowpocalypse that Wasn’t (New York City, 2017)

Listening to the news last weekend and last Monday, it sounded like disaster was imminent. Schools were shut down, public transit was suspended, and people were encouraged to remain at home if at all possible to avoid the life-threatening storm that was going to hit Monday night and continue through Tuesday.

Like most of the news commentators mentioned, the storm didn’t quite turn out as expected. I think I was listening to NPR when I heard an announcer mention the actual snow totals in New York City. He then made the comment, “Do you know what we call that in Chicago? Tuesday.” I laughed, remembering how I’d gone out on Tuesday to grab a few odds and ends for making tacos. There was a good bit of snow and the sidewalks were slippery, but it wasn’t that serious.

Snow accumulation on 176th Street in the Bronx, New York City.

Snow accumulation on 176th Street in the Bronx, New York City.

The Bronx received more snow than anywhere else in the city at 8″ of accumulation. Watching from my living room window, I could see that the wind was pretty bad at times, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I kept thinking about the blizzard in January of 2015 as a point of reference. The oddest thing about the day was how quiet it was. There was very little traffic, there weren’t many pedestrians, and the few trains that passed our station went by slowly and quietly, with no announcements. My apartment overlooks a train line. After living here for a year, I don’t really notice the sound of the trains, but I noticed when the sound stopped.

January 2015 Blizzard in Washington Heights:

January 2015 Winter Storm Jonas - New York City Blizzard
Wednesday was probably worse than Tuesday. The snow had partially melted because of sleet and rain and had frozen overnight on the sidewalks. The corners, where the pedestrian crossings are, were huge puddles of slush. Hopefully, this will be the last snow we see this year. I’m ready for spring.

The High Bridge Trail

The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park

The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park

The High Bridge, officially known as the Aqueduct Bridge, was originally used to bring water onto Manhattan Island from the Croton River. Construction began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. The bridge had the appearance of a Roman stone, arched aqueduct. In 1928, the bridge was rebuilt using steel construction that worked well for quite a few years, but since the 1970s, the bridge has been closed to all traffic. New York City is working on changing that as part of an effort to create a network of trails and paths for biking, jogging and walking.

So far, the renovation looks good. It’s not done yet, by a long shot. My wife and I went down the long flight of steps from High Bridge Park in Washington Heights to take a look around. The trail is closed and all we could see was the very entrance to the bridge. We decided to check out the trail, which is well done. It’s wide, new, offers some interesting views, and opens onto either Amsterdam or Edgecombe Avenue.

The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.

The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.

There is also a dirt trail that you can walk on. At first, it narrows down to little more than a well-worn deer path, but then it opens up into something that looks like the city is maintaining it. There were a lot of people walking through there, mostly with dogs and their kids, but it looks like it could be a pretty spooky and dangerous place at night. We saw remnants of wild parties, and there was a kid just hanging around by the entrance of the path (where it opens onto Edgecombe near 155th) with a mobile phone in his hand. He had a I’m-the-lookout-for-my-robber-friends kind of vibe, so I kept my eyes open.

I wonder if the city is planning on paving that section and extending it through the deer-trail portion so it connects with the rest of the paved High Bridge trail that will lead over the bridge into the Bronx? I’m also curious as to how this section of bike/jogging/walking paths will hook up to the rest of the path system in Manhattan, because at the bottom end of Edgecombe, the only sign I saw that might be part of the paths seemed to double back to the north along Harlem River Driveway towards Harlem River Drive. Maybe one day I’ll go down there and see if there’s a way to double back again and head south along the river.

I really need to get a bike. It would make exploration faster. There’s so much to see in New York City that I doubt I could ever see it all just by walking.

A Day at the Bronx Zoo

Last June, my wife and I took a trip up to the Bronx Zoo. Prior to moving back to New York City in 2010, I’d lived here as a kid, or visited numerous times, but I don’t know that I had ever been to the Bronx Zoo before. Anyway, we showed up about two hours after opening and, after some deliberation, went ahead and put out the extra money for the all-access passes instead of paying a-la-carte as we went through the zoo. The zoo has a large amount of free “content” but if you want the “premium” experience, you have to pay a heftier fee.

I think it was worth the money. We almost exclusively visited the premium areas, but ran out of time before seeing everything. Of course, some of the stuff we wouldn’t want to see anyway, because it was geared towards kids, but basically the Bronx Zoo is a two day experience, at least. There’s so much left that we didn’t see that we’re definitely going to have to go back again.

My favorite photos from our trip:

If you’re thinking of visiting the zoo, my only suggestions are to bring water, food (inside prices are out of control), a hat for shade and comfortable shoes for standing in lines for access to some of the premium areas like the Asia Monorail and the Dinosaur Safari, which we didn’t ride, but saw the line for while walking towards the butterfly garden.

First Trip to the Bronx and Meeting Extended Family Again After 25 Years

Outside the Dyer Avenue station in the Bronx.

 

Yesterday I went to a part of New York City that I’ve never seen before to see family members that I’d never met before (that I remember anyway).  I imagine most people in the US are in the same situation.  They know they have relatives in another part of the city, state or country, but they’ve never met them and may not ever meet them.  For me, these relatives are living in the Bronx.  Well, most of them anyway.  Some actually live just a few blocks from where I live in Manhattan, but I don’t know who they are.  For all I know, I’ve passed them in the street.  It’s weird to think about it that way right?

Outside the Dyer Avenue station in the Bronx.

A neighborhood in the Bronx.

The whole trip to the Bronx was a really interesting experience.  Like I said, I’d never been there.  I saw a side of the city I didn’t know existed.  It was sort of city and sort of not.  It’s more like suburbs, but not quite.  I can’t quite reconcile it to the impression I have of suburbs from cities like Atlanta.  It did remind me of some of the old, run down towns I’ve passed through in the South though.

Photos of a Southern town I drove through in 2008:

A small town in Alabama somewhere.

A small town in Alabama somewhere.

The overall impression I got of the area is that it’s mostly run down and dangerous, though I only saw a small part of the Bronx so that’s a generalization.  I’ve stricken it off my list of potential boroughs to live in.  Besides the fact that the area looks dangerous, it also requires a personal vehicle and all the expenses that come with one.  Who the hell would want to deal with the train problems between the Bronx and Manhattan if they had a choice?

Yeah, I have to just take a moment here to complain about the train problem.  There’s ongoing construction on the train lines heading into the Bronx.  When we went up there yesterday, we had to get off the train at 149th street, Grand Concourse (which isn’t very grand), and take a shuttle bus to 180th street, where we could get back on the train.  I’ve never taken a train straight to the Bronx, so I have no way of calculating exactly how much time we lost by having to take a shuttle bus, but let me just say that to get from 14th street and Avenue B to our relatives’ house in the Bronx took 2 hours and 45 minutes.  That’s absurd.  It wasn’t quite as bad on the way back, because there wasn’t as much traffic, but it still took just under 2 hours.  I’m sure it won’t be as bad when they finish the construction, but after having lived here for 9 months, I can reasonably assume that the construction will never stop.  There are always reroutes and delays.  It makes me long for the fast, safe and reliable train system in Singapore.

So, meeting extended and previously unknown family wasn’t as strange as I’d thought it would be.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the barbecue wound up having the same atmosphere as some I’ve attended in the Philippines.  I suppose that shouldn’t have been surprising, since my relatives on that side are all of Filipino descent.  Some of them remember seeing me as a kid, when I was about 5, but that was 25 years ago, so all of them were unfamiliar to me.  I couldn’t tell relative from friend of the family, so I did the best I could and mostly kept to myself, with the exception of a little socializing with my 2nd (or 3rd?) cousins to try to determine how exactly we were related.  The food was awesome and everyone was having a pretty good time, despite the heat and mosquitos.  In a way, it’s kind of nice to know that the family I have in the city extends beyond just the few relatives I previously knew about.  It gave me more of a sense of belonging and security.  I’m looking forward to going to future barbecues, with my wife in tow.  I have a feeling she’ll have a good time there.  Oh, I just remembered, there was no karaoke, so it wasn’t quite a Filipino barbecue!