3T:TudorCity/TurtleBay/Tram, New York, New York (A)

This tour takes you through four small neighborhoods in midtown Manhattan. Starting at Tudor City then past the UN and stop at a public park and over to Turtle Bay. On to Sutton Place, a hidden and exclusive street. Admire Queensborough Bridge which towers over the neighborhood and finally on to the new shiny red tram that takes you over to Roosevelt Island.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: 3T:TudorCity/TurtleBay/Tram
Guide Location: USA » New York
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: Monica Goslin
Author Bio: Monica Goslin graduated from Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland with a degree in Visual Communications and a minor in Literature. Ms.Goslin has traveled extensively in Europe, taking countless photographs in hopes of capturing a sense of place. Monica also has an on-line store, The Monica Store, selling her photographs as cards, posters, books, and a travel blog with stories, travel tips, and photos.
Author Website: http://www.themonicastore.com
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Church of the Covenant
  • Tudor City
  • The United Nations
  • Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
  • Turtle Bay
  • Beekman Place
  • Sutton Place
  • Queensborough Bridge
  • Tram to Roosevelt Island
Church of the Covenant

1) Church of the Covenant

The Church of the Covenant is located on 42nd street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, just before the south staircase to Tudor City. The Church of the Covenant is a Victorian Gothic structure built of brick with a slate and stone roof and was completed in 1871. This is the first stop on the tour as it is on the way to Tudor City and incorporated into the neighborhood. J. Cleveland Cady, a church member and architect, was very influential within the church and designed reversible pews to better accommodate church functions (not in place now, but certainly a useful function). As construction of Tudor City began around the church, changes were made. In 1927 the Parish House was replaced with Elizabethan style architecture to incorporate the church into the style of Tudor City. For a photo of 42nd street in the 1920’s visit the website of the Church of the Covenant and you can see what the street looked like before it was widened from 40 to 100 feet.

Source: Church of the Covenant website/history information: http://covenantnyc.org/history.html
Tudor City

2) Tudor City

Tudor City is a collection of twelve buildings sitting slightly elevated above the surrounding area, giving it quiet a fancy aura. The parameters of Tudor City are 40th to 43rd Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues. Before the 1920’s the area was a low income neighborhood dominated by tenements and slaughter houses (located on the East River where the UN is currently located). What you see today can be attributed to Fred French, a real estate developer who wanted to make residential apartment buildings for the middle class. Today the twelve buildings have co-op apartments and include a hotel; the whole neighborhood accommodates 4,500 residents.

In 1925, Tudor City was the largest housing development in New York City and had the tallest buildings East of Lexington Avenue (it was built before the Chrysler building which was completed in 1930). The Tudor City sign that sits atop one of the buildings and can been seen from 42nd Street is considered a landmark and protected by the Landmark Preservation Commission. The sign was actually not illuminated for many years because the UN believed it interfered with its communication equipment.

Fred French had a goal of bringing the middle class to the East Side and wanting to encourage a suburban feel within the city, while also providing a prime location to midtown. French incorporated Tudor motifs, which included: open space, entrance porticoes, and attention to street-level amenities. The red brick exteriors, the terra-cotta decoration, and the leaded stained glass windows are some of the details and craftsmanship that makes the area unique. The rooftops are impressive with gargoyles and griffins, although you can really only see them in movies as the buildings are private and not open to tours. Although the show, White Collar, gives a splendid view of one of the roof terraces as the main character’s apartment (Neal Caffrey) has a roof terrace. For movie and entertainment buffs, many films have made use of the unique area such as the newest Spider-Man movies and The Bourne Ultimatum. Make sure to walk through the whole area and don’t miss the view of 42nd street from the overpass between the two parks. Also be sure to cross the street and see the view of the East River on the other side. Tudor City has changed very little since the 1930’s. The main change was actually the widening of 42nd Street to provide a grander entrance to the UN, and thus creating the current bridge over 42nd Street and the stairways leading up to Tudor City. The widening of 42nd street also created the two public parks in Tudor City which were previously private. Tudor City really is a small oasis, a step above and away from the rush of mid-town and essentially just as Fred French intended and as stated in his motto for Tudor City, “A City within a city.”

Sources: Tudor City Historic District Designation Report 1988. City of New York and Landmarks Preservation Commission
The United Nations

3) The United Nations

The United Nations headquarters complex is just beyond Tudor City and a great way to reach it is by the curving staircase that leads down from 43rd Street to First Avenue. This tour is focusing on the architectural elements of the UN Headquarters, which consists of four main buildings. The location of the UN Headquarters, being New York City, was decided in 1946 after choosing between various locations including Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. At the time, 1st Avenue was the location of railroad and barge landings and slaughterhouses; so as you can see this small area has undergone a huge change. The tallest building, and rather bleak in appearance and really rather dated, is the Secretariat Building which was constructed in 19 months! The sides of the Secretariat Building without windows; are made up of 2,000 tons of Vermont marble. Because the UN is an international territory, it has its own fire fighting unit (located within the three stories below ground level of the Secretariat Building) and security forces as well as its own post office branch, issuing its own stamps (stamp collectors take note!). The white building with a slight “C” shape is the General Assembly building. The General Assembly building has a few key architectural features such as a 15 by 12 foot stained-glass panel by the Russian/French artist, Marc Chagall and it is dedicated to Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General and 15 others who died in a plane crash in 1961. On the other side of the Secretariat Building is the Dag Hammarskjold Library which houses over 330 daily newspapers and over 225 government gazettes from 192 countries, not to mention thousands of UN documents and maps. The flags of 192 UN members are lined up along the 500 foot long stretch in front of the buildings (note that the flags flow in the order of the English alphabet). As a side note of local interest, during the General Assembly in September, streets and sidewalks are blockaded, traffic is re-directed, and police line the streets. The General Assembly creates quite a stir and traffic becomes even more unbearable and even walking you meet with constant detours from 1st Avenue all the way to Park Avenue and as far north at 61st Street. So keep in mind that September is not the time to choose to visit the UN.

Sources: UN Vistor Center website and The Story of the UN Headquarters from the main website
Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza

4) Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza

Right across from the United Nations Headquarters is the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza which is a lovely tree lined park with benches and fountains. The park was completed in 1999. Many buildings in the two-block radius bare the name of Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General. You will see the Holocaust Memorial and the adjacent Wallenberg Memorial in center of 1st Avenue, before the park. On the east side of the park notice the Trump World Tower, a residential skyscraper that was the tallest apartment building in the world, at 264 meters high, until 2003 when the 21st Century Tower was built in Dubai. The Trump World Tower was designed to rival with five-star hotels services and houses a private spa and health club, a private wine cellar, valet parking, and a swimming pool. If interested, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for just under one million (sounds like a deal!). If you happen to be making this walking tour on a Wednesday, there is a weekly farmer’s market in the Plaza all day on Wednesdays. You might see demonstrations in the park; the New York City Police Department allows demonstrations in the plaza across from the UN. Part of the plaza has a narrow garden on the south side, the Katherine Hepburn Garden. Overall the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (notice the quote by Hammarskjold chiseled into the sidewalk) is a pleasant space for pedestrians and on a weekday afternoon you will find the benches full of business men and women eating lunch and reading newspapers, relaxing for a few minutes within the busy city.

Official site: Trump World Tower official website and the Turtle Bay Association Official website.
Turtle Bay

5) Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is a neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan, running from 41st to 53rd streets and from Lexington Avenue over to First Avenue. Originally a farm in the 17th century, the land was given to two Englishmen as a grant of forty acres from the Dutch governor in 1639 and named Turtle Bay Farm. There is debate over the origins of the name, either having to do with turtles in the creek or the Dutch word “deutal” for bent blade, used to describe the shape of the bay and in the end having the word misconstrued by the English. Due to the bay and access to the East River, the area had a large number of shipbuilders, carpentry shops and mills. In the mid 1800’s however, the farms were replaced with the grid system plan for the city and the land was subdivided for residential development. After the Civil War, the bay was filled in and the shipbuilding companies were replaced with brownstone buildings that attracted working immigrants and tenement housing. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the area began to improve and brownstones were refurbished and made into townhouses. You are welcome to wander around the entire neighborhood but focus on twenty houses on 48th and 49th Streets between 3rd and 2nd Avenue where you will see charming townhouses, slate roofs, and make sure to notice the iron fences with turtles! Notice that the buildings on these two blocks are uniform in height with simple facades in neutral colors. Also there is communal garden, the Turtle Bay Gardens, shared by the houses lining 48th and 49th streets between 3rd and 2nd Avenues, but only accessible by the lucky few that live in those townhouses. The houses numbered 225-227 on East 49th Street were built in 1926 for Efrem Zimbalist, the violinist, although now the building has been divided into apartments; see the violin carved over the doorway as proof to the original owners! After the building of the UN, the neighborhood undertook another transformation with high-rise buildings and a number of United Nations missions and consulates took over quite a few buildings in the area. Nevertheless, Turtle Bay has a distinctive history and character.

Sources: Turtle Bay Association official website.
Beekman Place

6) Beekman Place

Beekman Place is a few blocks, still in Turtle Bay, but with its own name and distinction. Beekman Place was originally part of the James Beekman’s property and colonial mansion, named Mount Pleasant, built in 1763 (the mansion was torn down in 1874). The townhouses along these blocks were remodeled in the 1920’s and distinctive families have lived here, including the Rockefellers. Beekman Tower Hotel on East 49th street has Art Deco architecture and the rooftop lounge offers great views of the city. If you walk to the end of 51st street you will find the Peter Detmold Park, which is accessible by a steep staircase (handicap access is at 49th street). The park has a small garden and a dog run. You can also reach a walkway that runs along the East River by a footbridge over the FDR highway. The park is named after Peter Detmold, who was a president of the Turtle Bay Association. Notice the grand brick building that hides the staircase to the park and looms over the river like a fortress, as well as the elegant building right next to it with the small scenes above each doorway and the iron lanterns. Other interesting architectural elements to notice in the area: look for the jungle gym like structure incorporated in the roof and building of 23 Beekman Place. This is a small area of just a few blocks but a much coveted address to have and another neighborhood that has the feel of quiet and calm, tucked away from the city.

Sources: Turtle Bay Association official website, Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District, and Sutton Place area: Sutton and Beekman Places by Carter B. Horsley; The City Review website.
Sutton Place

7) Sutton Place

This is one of the prettiest, quiet, and exclusive streets in the city of New York (at least I think so). From East 53rd to 59th street you will find wider sidewalks, trees, small waterfront parks, elegant apartment buildings, and a charming row of townhouses. Of the apartment buildings, make sure to notice the stunning view of the river by just walking past the entrance to One Sutton Place South with its triple-arch driveway (fancy huh!). The row of townhouse between 57th and 58th street are said to have been built in 1875 by Effingham B. Sutton. While the name of the area is attributed to Sutton, there are no documents connecting him to the buildings other then that he lived in the city. There was actually a group of developers in 1875 that acquired the property and built the brownstones, a few which survive today. The area experienced many changes in terms of architecture and even street names. The street was originally Avenue A and officially became Sutton Place in 1897, with the small block of picturesque 1920’s townhouses being the principal block (between 57th and 58th streets). It wasn’t until after World War I that the buildings were incorporated with public parks and gardens. The parks along Sutton Place are public and offer a space to sit and admire the views of the East River and the Queensborough Bridge. The parks, tie to other developments visited on this tour like Tudor City and Turtle Bay, for the importance of green communal spaces integrated with residences. Some of the more notable past residences: a Vanderbilt moved from their Fifth Avenue mansion to 1 Sutton Place, which is now the official home to the Secretary General of the UN, and J.P. Morgan’s daughter lived in Number 3. Make sure to walk to the ends of each street and see the views and the parks, and you will also get a glimpse of the river-side portion of the buildings, and a touch of the overall affect of the location.

Sources: “If You’re Thinking of Living In/Sutton Place; A Riverside Enclave for the Well-to-Do” New York Times article by Bret Senft. Published Juen 12, 1994. And the Sutton Place area: Sutton and Beekman Places by Carter B; Horsley; The City Review.
Queensborough Bridge

8) Queensborough Bridge

The Queensborough Bridge borders Sutton Place and you get a great view of the bridge from the small park at the end of East 58th street off of Sutton Place.

The bridge has provided more then just a passageway for traffic but also space for the tennis courts on York Avenue under the bridge and the Food Emporium supermarket on First Avenue under the bridge. The supermarket is probably one of the prettiest in the city with high ceilings and arches. The space for the “Bridgemarket” used to be an open air farmers market from 1914 to 1930 and then used for construction storage until 1999 when it was restructured for the current market space. Notice the arched ceilings in the market, designed by the Spanish architect Raphael Gustavino. The distinctive design, self-supporting arches using interlocking tiles and layers of mortar is known as Gustavino vaulting, an architectural term you can impress your friends with. In addition to providing transport and groceries, the bridge is also the point at which runners enter Manhattan during the New York City Marathon. And now for the history of the bridge: The bridge was completed in 1909 and designed by bridge engineer Gustav Lindentahl; while the actual idea and proposals for the bridge started in 1838. The cost of building the bridge was 18 million dollars and fifty lives were lost in the process of the construction. The bridge is made up of a series of beams supported on only one end, this is called a cantilever. The bridge is a double cantilever bridge, notice that the bridge has two levels of traffic, and was the longest cantilever span until 1917 when the Quebec Bridge in Canada surpassed it. As with everything in New York City, the Queensborough Bridge has undergone many changes. The top level was originally for pedestrians and elevated railway tracks while the lower level was for cars. There used to be a trolley from Manhattan to the middle of the bridge, where passengers would then disembark to take stairs down to Roosevelt Island. All of these features were removed by the 1950’s and the bridge was then solely used for motor traffic, eleven lanes of it! Current driving tip, the bridge has no tolls, so when coming into the city from JFK or La Guardia airports, ask your taxi driver to take the Queensborough bridge and avoid a toll fee being added to your fare (you’re welcome)! The bridge recently finished with its make-over including a new paint job and going green with a permanent bike and pedestrian walkway. The Queensborough Bridge is now a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, an honor given by the American Society of Civil Engineering in 2009 and it is also a New York City Landmark.

Sources: American Society of Civil Engineering website
Tram to Roosevelt Island

9) Tram to Roosevelt Island

The tram to Roosevelt Island has recently been renovated with new cars. The tram ride is just four minutes long but offers great panoramic views of the city and the East River as well as the Queensborough Bridge. At the highest point of the tram ride, you will be 250 feet above the East River (if afraid of heights, don’t look down at his point of the ride). The cost of a ride is the same as a metro ride (currently $2.25 one way. As of January 2011) and the tram runs every fifteen minutes. As pretty and fun as the tram is, it is not just for tourists; commuters that live on Roosevelt Island use the tram to get into Manhattan for work. The tram originally began operating in 1976. The tram is not the only way to reach Roosevelt Island, you call also reach by taking the F train (orange metro line), but it is definitely more fun. The tram is actually the only aerial commuter tram in the United States, so enjoy the ride and the view!

If you choose to take the tram over to Roosevelt Island here is a little bit of info on the two miles long island. The island passed through many hands and had various different names. In 1666 the island was seized by Captain John Manning and after twenty years Manning’s son-in-law, Robert Blackwell, became the new owner. Under Robert Blackwell the island became known as Blackwell Island and remained so for 235 years! The Blackwell family house, built in 1796 is the oldest landmark on the island and one of the six oldest houses in New York City! From the tram stop, walk towards the Southern tip of the Island where you can walk along the river walk, walk by the current hospitals, and you will also reach the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital, built in 1856. Although in ruins, the Smallpox Hosptial is actually on the National Register of Historic Places, the only ruin in the city on the list. You can also opt to take a bus ride on the red minibus, around the island for only 25 cents! At the northern tip of the island you will see Blackwell Island Light; a lighthouse which was built in 1872. James Renwick Jr., architect of the Smithsonian Institution in D.C. and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, supervised the construction of the lighthouse. In 1973 the island became Roosevelt Island and today it is a residential island that is just a step away from the bustling city.

Sources: http://www.ny.com/transportation/ri_tramway.html and Nyc10044.com website Roosevelt Island Timeline of Island History

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