The Death of A&P on McLean

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IMG_4363The older I get, the more I have to stop myself from mourning the loss of all childhood locals as I realize with great pride that I am simply one of a crowd.

A long list of mourners who have watched time march on and their beloved memories and structures pass on by with it.

For me, if it wasn’t the old Finest in Cross County, long gone now or the Waldbaumb’s on Central Ave., long gone as well, it was this place that my family did their food shopping.

This too was a Waldbaumb’s of course, but when it changed over in the 2000’s, the place didn’t seem to skip a beat and while this particular locations was always packed, somehow or another, either through competition, bad accounting practices or otherwise, A&P said goodbye for good on Sunday in New York.

There really is no “bad news” associated to this post, no day of mourning to be had like in the case of Nathan’s or Charlie Browns.

Slated to open back up in a few days as an Acme Food Store, time will go march on, things will be back to business and from what I gathered, most of the dozens of employees at this location on McLean Ave. will keep their jobs.

The place was a ghost town and looked more like a pending Blizzard was about to hit when I stopped by the night before closing…

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One thing I will miss though are these guys right here…the quarter machines where quality and plastic intersect to give the customer a prize worth keeping for years to come.

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An interesting fact about New Yorkers…all meats are preferred over Bologna apparently.

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The Produce aisle…

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As with any new business venture in Yonkers, I wish it well and truly do hope that this store can continue to serve Little Ireland for years to come.

Walking around this supermarket, no matter what the name says on the outside of the door, makes me feel like a kid and I can vividly see my Dad frantically racing down the aisles, elbowing old ladies, gleefully grabbing bargains and marveling at his purchases as we make the 90 Degree turn out the door.

Personally though, I’ll stick with C-Town on Katonah Ave for now…Yonkers can get my tax money through its many pizzerias and Deli’s.

—Josh

The Abandoned Mailbox of Parkway North

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Sometimes you simply stroll by something in Yonkers and if you are not already hardened and cynical by the City’s underbelly, you can appreciate things for what they are and not really question anything else about your observations.

Case and point, Parkway North, a clean east to west boundary line for Yonkers and the Bronx running from Kimball Ave. to the Thruway, you don’t expect to find something like this in the northern woods of Van Cortlandt Park…

Mailbox3A lone mailbox, sealed shut and who knows how far away from its permanent home.  Moreover, how can the U.S. Postal Service lose track of a mailbox?

Mailbox2I feel bad for this lil guy…

IMG_3514Perhaps he gave it the office and retired some years ago, but I imagine his retirement dreams after a career as a letter carrier were more situated in the Florida sunshine or even somewhere along the Hudson River as a place for seagulls to rest their wings on a sunny day.

Mailbox1Whatever the case, if you find yourself on Parkway North at the corner of Old Jerome Ave, pay a visit to this lonely guy and if any of you have a truck and a saw, feel free to give him a lift to perhaps a more fitting retirement home.  I’m pretty sure once the mailboxes are no longer in use it is not a federal offense to move one…

—Josh

 

What is the Reputation of Yonkers?

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A few months ago I read an article that was titled “10 Yonkers Stereotypes That Are Completely Accurate”, by Maria Scinto, a writer on a real estate website OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMovoto.com.

I’m certainly not about to go through all 10 as many of them are fairly ridiculous to say the least, but I thought a few of these so-called stereotypes would make for some interesting debate as to their validity.

Here are a few that I thought were the most interesting observations about the city of Yonkers and her people.

  • Residents never miss a chance at name-dropping whether it’s a Yonkers celebrity or mutual friend

Ok so I changed this one up a bit because I believe it should have been worded as such.  I don’t know about you but I am sure my name has been tossed around like a midget at a bachelorette party as it seems as though everyone in the city is a mere one degree of separation away from everyone else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Oh you went to Gorton HS…class of 86’….did you know so and so?”  “Oh you used to hang out on Carol Ave.?…Were you friends with such and such?” “Oh you used to use the bathroom at Macy’s before catching the 20 bus to go up to Central Ave…did you ever see blah blah blah?”

It’s actually an endearing quality and one that I longed for when I would live outside of NY and the chances of running into someone who used to know my elementary teacher Mrs. Aglione because she’s their cousin and their daughter went to Gorton HS, the same school I graduated from, only she was a year ahead of me….yea that’s not gonna happen out in Phoenix AZ.

  • Yonkers is full of cops and teachers

Now I’m sure we can debate this one for a while here but when I think of Yonkers, I don’t think to myself, “my gosh…this city has nothing but Law Enforcement and Educators!”  Sure within the 4 Precincts there are hundreds of Law Enforcement personnel and the school district has tens of thousands of students, resulting in over 1500 full-time teachers in the district. But still come on…cops and teachers?

Obviously the city boasts many many other professional opportunities, from Firemen and EMS to local businesses and so on.  As with others on the list, I thought this one was a stretch.

  • People of Yonkers cling to their culinary past

This one I felt was fairly spot on as we do reminisce about places like Landi’s Deli, El Torito, Horn and Hardart, hell even the lunch counter at Woolworth’s was a gem of a place to get a grilled cheese and fries.

You all saw how torn up I got about the loss of Nathan’s on Central Ave. and at least that place does still exist 8195670144_de0a39c3e4_zin one form or another.

Most places around the world take their food very seriously so I don’t necessarily look at it as a point of distinction, rather an endearing quality that makes any city great.

  • The city is super-diverse, but by neighborhoods

IMG_0405Again, a valid point and one that I think the city is finally doing a good job in excepting and embracing.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade Should take place on McLean Ave., South Broadway just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

South Broadway should be lined with Caribbean, Hispanic and South American cuisine because in large measure, that is the population that now inhabits that neighborhood.

When they built the Starbucks on Bronx River Rd. a number of years back, my initial response was “finally!”.  It’s an area of young professionals, college students and um…we’ll call them, seasoned residents; all of whom utilize the place daily and needed a reliable coffee shop to meet their needs.

To read all 10 of the Yonkers stereotypes, click here and lemme know what you think about the one’s I mentioned in the comment section below.

–Josh

The Crazy Dreams of Samuel Untermyer in Yonkers

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One of my favorite fairy tale quotes comes from the timeless story of Alice in Wonderland, a tale chock-full of wickedly inspiring and clever lines and one in particular that has always given me great strength and pride reads:

Alice: One can’t believe impossible things.

The Queen: …you haven’t had much practice…why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

UntermyerI’d like to think that for Samuel Untermyer, a lawyer from Virginia who acquired his now famous Yonkers property in 1899, he read those words at some point in his life and was inspired to dream big and to allow his own dreams to manifest themselves in more ways than one.

Most people who are lifelong Yonkers residents know of his contribution to the city and the 43 acre park he left for public use in 1948. What he left behind was a masterpiece of civic artistry, with dreams and ambitions to share his acquired wealth, along with his love of horticulture with visitors from around the country as they passed through his gardens on a weekly basis.

30,000 people visited his gardens in one single day back in September of 1939 as the country braced for World War IMG_1415and Untermyer himself of German Jewish decent, advocated for the Zionist Liberation Movement and then became President of the Karen Hayesod Agency.

To me, Untermyer was a born pioneer, a man who advocated for Women’s rights before most men did.  A man who spoke out against Hitler before most men did.  An activist against civil rights, again long before the movement truly gained national attention in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Mr. Untermyer certainly had a vision that was never fully realized even in his day, but should also never be forgotten.

A vision that one day, the rest of his 150 acre property would become a state park to be maintained and preserved for the enjoyment of the public, a vision that in the end, proved very costly and never seemed to materialize.

Presently, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy as well as the city of Yonkers is hard at work, attempting to fulfill the lofty ambitions of Untermyer years ago and while much work still needs to be done, I thought I would point out some of my favorite spots on the property.

Before Untermyer acquired the acreage, the land belonged to Samuel J. Tilden, a failed presidential hopeful who had previously been Governor of New York State.  He was a man with a strong passion for horticulture as well and built a greenhouse on the property to cultivate rare and exotic plants, laying the foundation for the property’s ultimate future.

One of the finest features of the property has to be “The Vista” or as some might call it, the “Don’t Attempt to Climb These Stairs Without Approval from your Cardiologist Stairway…” or something close to that because there are over 200 stairs that go from the Vista Overlook of the Hudson River to the top where the North Loggia of the Walled Garden’s lower terrace resides.

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And the view up…

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It’s a long way down or up depending on where you begin but both are worth it.  Not only will you work up a sweat and just take in the beauty of the property, but if you are traveling down the stairs, you will make your way to what I believe to be the oldest man-made objects in the entire city of Yonkers.

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Two giant ancient Roman Columns, made from Cipolino Marble, flank the Hudson Overlook and from what I have read, these things go back at least to the year 200 BC.

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They really are a thing of beauty as if you didn’t have enough of it already on the property.

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Even better in some respects are the ghostly outlines of what was once a beautiful fountain area, with its own stairway which led to an area known as the Color Garden, which contained an array of plants each different in color as well as a vegetable garden and rose garden, long since overgrown and laying sadly in ruin.

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Also, the bottom of the property as most Yonkers residents know, is flanked by the OCA Trail and at the entrance there lay in ruins, some of the more beautiful Lion and Horse sculptures I have ever seen.

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The Lion is in better condition of the two by far, with its gorgeous detail and almost sorrowful look, it still stands guard proudly after all these years as joggers and bikers pass by along the Old-Croton Aqueduct Trail.

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Sadly the Horse lay in ruin, decapitated but still just as nice in many ways.

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The structure above the two animals was a former gatehouse and what I suspect was also servants quarters as the property did employ dozens of people at one time. It required 60 individuals alone to care for the main garden area.  Nowadays, the building has succumb to time and is a hollowed out shell of its former self.

Also, this is one of main areas that the so-called “Satanic Cults” used to roam around in and perform god knows what, earning the nickname, the “Devil’s Hole”.  My advice is to peak in and make it brief…

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Of course, there are many many more areas of the park I could point out, but I think it is best to leave them to you to discover, as Untermyer Park is and always will be, the grandest park in Yonkers.

Take an afternoon, perhaps this weekend, make the trip down North Broadway just past St. John’s Hospital, leave all electronics behind, grab the kiddos and pack a lunch.

That’s how Mr. Untermyer would have liked it and no matter how much time passes after his death, the sun still shines just as brightly on his beautiful gardens and an afternoon on his hillside in Yonkers can be just as grand and magnificent as it was for him and his family over 100 years ago.

For more information about tours and park hours, click here.

–Josh

 

Remembering the Yonkers Leprechaun Jess Buzzutto

16bigcity_CA0-articleLargeWhat would a St. Patrick’s Day be in Yonkers without taking at least some time to fondly remember and eulogize a Yonkers legend. A man who always could be seen in his later years sporting that green cap and waving to passersby near his home off Roberts Ave.

I myself have never seen him believe it or not, never took the time or was graced by the good fortune of running into him, either by driving by his home or seeing him in Stew Leonards, Stop N Shop or where ever else sightings of him existed.

According to a 2010 NY Times profile on him, Jess Buzzutto, known forever as simply “The Yonkers Leprechaun”, worked as a computer programmer most of his life and once in retirement, embraced his green roots I suppose and could be seen daily in the green get-up.

I am sure that readers on here have many more memories than I do of Jess, whether they be in Yonkers or even Manhattan where apparently he would catch a train and head down to the big city, wool cap and all.

Marching in the St. Patty’s Day parade in 2010 and bringing smiles to so many residents over the years, I suppose his legacy as the Yonkers Leprechaun belongs in the Yonkers pantheon of other great and legendary men and women of this city.

Still though, Ella Fitzgerald, Steven Tyler, DMX, Jess Buzzutto “The Yonkers Leprechaun”…it’s a crack squad to say the least.

If you have any Yonkers Leprechaun memories, please be sure and share them in the comments below 🙂 Thanks guys!

–Josh

MyYonkers Conversations with Bill Borelli

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IMG_0984IMG_0989When you look around the city of Yonkers for mainstays that never change, places that were there when we were kids and now we bring our kids to, generally speaking, it’s a restaurant, a building, an ice skating rink, a train station on the Hudson or any number of places we like to label as landmarks.

Life-long Yonkers resident Bill Borelli is a landmark in his own right, not even for the years he has lived near Sacred Heart and the love he has for the city but for the five decades of service he has provided at Edward J. Murray Memorial Skating Center, or “Murray’s” as locals call it.

If you have ever skated at Murray’s…as in ever…since the day it opened on January 16th 1960, and rented skates, chances are you’ve met Bill or his father who started the Varsity Skate Shop back on the day when the rink opened for business.  54 Years later, you can still find Bill in the same place, performing the same labor of love for kids and adults of all ages and at age 78, plans of retirement are as distant to him as the day he started.

Just like you, I have memories of years of going to Murray’s on a Friday or Saturday night to skate, meet girls, have food, meet girls, rent skates, meet girls and if I was lucky, meet girls.  And whether it’s the early to mid nineties or the early to mid sixties, Bill was there to see it all in one form or another and to ask you the all important question, “what size skate do you need?”

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IMG_1021 copyWhen I caught up with him on a Friday at Murray’s, he had just finished servicing two bus loads full of students from a school in Mt.Vernon, happily dealing with their impatience, the volume of their voices and eagerly wanting to make sure that each and every skater received the best pair of skates they could rent.

That in a nutshell is Bill Borelli.  He is simply, irreplaceable and a throw back to what many would agree is a bygone era, where quality trumps quantity, where work is valued upon the quality of service given and where little things matter just as much as big things.

Little things like making sure each pair of skates are wiped down clean and looking as good as new for the next renter.  That the skates are sharpened to the highest quality, using a machine that could be considered outdated to say the least, made not too far away by a Long Island man and you would probably have to drive to 100 other skating rinks before seeing it again.

IMG_1006 copyLittle things such as writing down the skate number for the 8 year-old girl who is learning to figure skate that way every time she comes back to rent her skates, she can learn and practice on the same exact pair each time.

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Sitting down to interview him, he told me about the litany of memories he has collected from behind the counter over the years and I was quick to remind him of the memories he has provided for all of us on the other side of the counter as well.

One of the things I miss the most from childhood is how it felt being 13,14,15 years-old and going to Murray’s on a Friday night, something that can never be re-created in adulthood and certainly something that was taken for granted at the time.

So if you’re like me and can still hear the music, feel the ice and want to take a trip down memory lane via Murray’s Skating Rink, here’s the MyYonkers Conversation with Varsity Skate Shop owner Bill Borelli.

MyYonkers: So I have to ask, did you ever meet Edward J. Murray?

Bill Borelli: No, he died before the rink was built but was a guy that did an awful lot for the city of Yonkers as a contractor and politician.

MyYonkers:  Have you lived in Yonkers all your life?

Bill Borelli: Born and raised, growing up down by Sullivan’s Oval.  I remember when they were selling lots on Central Ave. for homes and businesses and many other things people wouldn’t even believe.  Here’s one, there was a lake where Spruce St. meets Rumsey Rd. called “Devil’s Lake” and I learned to ice skate on it.  Now it’s all homes.

MyYonkers: So what was here before they built the rink?

Bill Borelli: St. Nick’s Oval, it was a ball field and a nice place to have a picnic or cook out on a Sunday and at the bottom of the hill was a florist, a driving range and a bakery from the Troznick Family that you can buy homemade pies for literally $1.25.

MyYonkers: Why did your Father decide to open the skate shop?

Bill Borelli: He got a job in the Mills working for a man named John Flynn who eventually became Mayor of the city of Yonkers.  After serving in WWII, Flynn was one of the guys who pushed to make the skating rink happen since the Oval wasn’t used as much due to the construction of the Thruway and such.  Once the Mill closed, Flynn asked my father if he would bid on the skate shop in the new rink and he got it and we’ve had it in the family ever since.

MyYonkers: What was opening day like back in January of 1960?

Bill Borelli: There were 7,000 people in attendance! Needless to say we were a bit unprepared.  It was an all-day session and we only had about 300 pairs of skates on hand for rentals.  The lines stretched around the rink and from then on, the rink always made money. Despite recessions or whatnot, every year Murray’s has been profitable and there’s a reason for that.   Back then the rental was $0.25 and even the Parks commissioner came down and said to us at the end of the day that “I never want to hear that you don’t have enough skates again.”  Now we have about 2,000 pairs of skates or so on hand. 

MyYonkers: How have the crowds changed over the years?

Bill Borelli: Well we had more public sessions in the 60’s and 70’s.  In the 80’s and so on, the rink began cutting back on the sessions and more and more just privately renting out the ice to groups and teams.  There are about 14 sessions per week now and double that years ago.

MyYonkers: What sets Murray’s apart and even more importantly, Varsity Skate Shop?

Bill Borelli: I’m always buying skates, always trying to find the kind of skates people seem to like but also that the skates are kept in as good a condition as possible.  Some places mix skates up, two rights, two lefts, and that’s something that doesn’t happen here.  Each pair we rent lasts about a year and a half on average.

MyYonkers: Has this always been a side job for you?

Bill Borelli: My Dad passed away in 1999 and my “day job” was working for NASA, working in aerospace but I always worked part-time here and when he passed, I decided to take the business over full-time.  My wife and family always just simply put up with me working the two jobs and you know I missed a good deal of things with my kids growing up.  But one thing I have noticed over the years is that there is a relationship between the customers and the staff here, a special kind of family style relationship.  Having been through 6 managers here, I’ve seen many many people come and go but the staff and even the customers create their own family atmosphere here.

MyYonkers: Do people remember you from their time as a kid skating at Murray’s?

Bill Borelli: Every week that happens, people can’t believe I’m still here but nothing has changed at Murray’s, nothing and people who now come here as adults with their own kids get a kick out of how everything is the same.

MyYonkers: Do you still get the same joy out of servicing the 8 year-old girl’s skates now as you did perhaps when you started over five decades ago?  Is it still enjoyable?

Bill Borelli: Still love doing this and always trying to improve each year.  I have a system for the new skaters in the lesson program where they get the same pair of skates each time to learn on.  I’ll even come out and measure a skater’s foot for a public session nowadays because you want people to have a good session and have skates that fit well.

MyYonkers: Any future plans on retirement or another endeavor?

Bill Borelli: No plans…no plans.  You know as long as I can keep my health I love doing this and I’ll simply keep doing it.

For more information on public skating sessions at Murray’s, click here and remember to say “hi” to Bill next time you rent your skates from Varsity Skate Shop!

—-Josh

Nathan’s Comeback in Yonkers

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Last week saw the re-establishment of the Yonkers emblem of meat in tube-form as Nathan’s Hot Dogs on Central Ave. reopened their new doors, thisIMG_0050 time on the north facing side of a complex of stores consisting of a CVS and 2 stores to be named later.

What can I say?

The scars and memories of the original Nathan’s are still fresh inside all of our heads who lost one of our go-to spots for a quick lunch on a Saturday.

The new Nathan’s as expected, leaves much to be desired, no arcade games and no history of any kind, I don’t care how often they post signage of the year “1916” around the inside and outside of the place.

No stained glass mirrors, no fun chicken, nothing really of the Nathan’s of my youth.

Here’s a quick tour:

The drive thru is still around and I’ll give them points for improving things in this regard although it’s really six of one, half a dozen of the other.

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The same green and red neon lights still greet customers as they enter but obviously nothing close to the original signage.

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The inside is well…what can you say.  If you traded a few hot dogs and crinkle cut fries for some golden arches and the Cheeseburglar, you’d pretty much have a mickey D’s.

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One of the nicer or cooler parts though are the giant murals of Nathan’s Coney Island past and kuddos to the details of food, rides and people.

IMG_0062Nathan’s Seafood?

IMG_0061More Nathan’s happy customers…

IMG_0060Very dated bathing suits…

IMG_0058I like this kid…

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They also have framed pictures of the good times at the Coney Island landmark…

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IMG_0066With the centennial anniversary approaching, I am sure Nathan’s will be going all out nationwide let alone here in the NY area to commemorate their place in Hot Dog history and rightfully so.

Still though, despite Nathan’s being a universe unto itself, I think the place should have paid some homage to the old Nathan’s of Central Ave., even if it was just a mural or portrait of the bright lights guiding the way for the cars that passed by along Central Ave.

While I rarely advocate things of this nature, my suggestion is to extend the extra effort and time and catch a D Train, make your way out to Coney Island, and fulfill your craving with the real thing.  The remodel and renovation of the original Nathan’s has been complete for some time now and it’s just as good and packed as always out on Coney Island.

I hate to not patronize a Yonkers business and give into my nostalgic obstinance but it may take another 100 years before Nathan’s on Central Ave. gives me the satisfaction that its predecessor gave me time and time again.  Your Thoughts?

—Josh