On a surprisingly warm winter’s day, Juergen Schramm and Michael Zell, two visitors from Hamburg, Germany, had an intimate, insider’s view of one of New York’s most engaging neighborhoods–the Upper West Side– when they met Big Apple Greeter for a Day, New York City Council Member Gale Brewer in her district office on Columbus Avenue. Joining them were Greeter Coreen Bourke and Big Apple Greeter’s Founder, Lynn Brooks.
Council Member Brewer briefed them on the important issues in her district, especially urban renewal, and with many historic buildings all around, she jokingly said, “I’d landmark the whole city if they left it up to me!” Walking down 89th Street, she pointed out the landmarked Public School 166, The Richard Rodgers School, whose architecture reminded Juergen Schramm of “something out of the latest Harry Potter movie!” Across the street was the West Side Community Garden, developed in the ‘70s and completely maintained by volunteers. “Community gardens” the council member explained, “were important in stabilizing an area and making people feel they had an investment in their own neighborhoods.”
A few paces down the street were two landmarked buildings, the Ballet Hispanico, where “JLO” (Jennifer Lopez) got her start and the Claremont Riding Academy, the last active stable on the Upper West Side (now a new, private school).
On 90th street, Council Member Brewer’s husband, Cal Snyder, gave a talk on urban development and pointed out the beautiful row houses (many of them brownstones that the Upper West Side is known for) built in the 1880s, and then led everyone on a walk on Central Park West to see the grand old apartment buildings (such as the El Dorado) built from 1880 to 1930s. The greet ended with a surprise treat when everyone was ushered into the council member’s brownstone to see the beautiful, wood paneled interior of her intact Victorian home!
Visitors Juergen Schramm and Michael Zell were delighted to “see more than just the outside” and get a glimpse of New York history as well as a peek inside a real New Yorker’s home!
Story by Phyllis Hoffman
Photos By Paul Katcher