The Metropolis: Must-sees in TriBeCa, Battery Park, Lower East Side

TriBeCa is a hip and trendy neighborhood on the lower West Side of Manhattan. Its name stands for “Triangle Below Canal Street.”

Many of TriBeCa’s historic commercial buildings have been converted into upscale residential lofts, studios, and other retail space. Its industrial vibe and cobblestone streets have attracted many celebrities, artists and creative professionals.

Robert DeNiro—a TriBeCa resident—and two fellow philanthropists launched the TriBeCa Film Festival in an effort to help revitalize the neighborhood in the aftermath of 9/11. Today, nearly two decades later, this 12-day festival has become one of the most premiere theatrical mega-events in the world, attracting hundreds of people in person, and millions online.

Here are some of the other things you won’t want to miss when visiting TrBeCa:

The Mysterious BookShop. This curious book store specializes in all manner of mystery, crime, espionage and detective stories—including an impressive Sherlock Holmes collection. There are also many rare titles and other collectibles to back up its claim to be one of the oldest mystery book shops in America.

Poets House is dedicated to honoring, exhibiting, and celebrating this most precious artform. Located in a picturesque spot over the Hudson River, Poets House offers and extensive library along with readings, workshops, classes, showcases, conversations, and many other programs that keep poetry alive and relevant. Their annual Poetry Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is quite popular, offering a lively and thoughtful way to experience New York City through the works of some of the most brilliant poets throughout history.

Phillip Williams Posters is a “salon style gallery” featuring the largest personal collection of posters that span the centuries and the globe. Over 100,000 posters from Mr. Williams’ collection are on display here along with painting, sculptures, rare advertising memorabilia, lithographic plates and other types of visual art.

Shake Rattle & Roll Pianos. For a unique, raucous and thoroughly entertaining evening the Dueling Pianos show at Shake Rattle & Roll Pianos cannot be beat. Billed as is a “concert, comedy show and cabaret -all rolled into one!” this show features dueling artists playing songs from all genres—whatever the audience requests.

Battery Park

At the southern tip of Manhattan lies a 25-acre stretch of land known as the Battery, or Battery Park. This is one of the oldest parks in Manhattan. It was originally the hunting and fishing lands of the Lenape. The Dutch settled there in the 1600s, ultimately forcing the Lenape out. To protect their settlement from seaward attack by the English, the Dutch erected artillery batteries pointing out over the New York Harbor. The English, however, took control of Manhattan, only to lose it after the Revolutionary War. Today, Battery Park and Battery Park City offer both historical, cultural, and natural attractions to its millions of visitors each year.

One of the best ways to enjoy Battery Park is to just walk it. There is a large, paved esplanade hugging the shore, with beautiful trees and gardens, monuments and other statuary—and the best view of the Statue of Liberty to the South and Freedom Tower to the North. There are many more things to see and do.

Here are a just a couple:

Castle Clinton National Monument. This grand fort was originally built during tense relations with the British in the early 1800s. Over the years, it served as an opera hall and theater, an immigrant processing center, and is now one of the most visited National Park Service sites in America.

Irish Hunger Memorial. In the nearby Battery Park City section, the Irish Hunger Memorial was dedicated in 2002. This unique ½ acre park memorializes and brings awareness to the Great Irish Famine, during which a million Irish people died of starvation in less than 10 years. This beautiful space was designed to look like an Irish landscape. It features vegetation, stones, and earth from all the counties of Ireland. It features an authentic 19th century stone cottage, a stone wall, flowers, plants, and Irish landscaping. A short history on the Great Irish Famine is featured on Kilkenny limestone.

Battery Park Ferries. There are several ferries that depart from Battery Park’s gangways. These boats can take visitors to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (which is in plain view from the park). Other destinations include the free ferry to Staten Island, and many sightseeing cruises around Manhattan.

The Lower East Side

The Lower East Side (LES) was once a wooded, marshy area settled and owned by the Dutch prior to the Revolutionary War. Several farms occupied the land, including the orchards (Orchard Street) of James Delancey (Delancey Street).

In the 19th and 20th centuries, several different waves of immigrants settled in LES, followed by an unfortunate period of poverty. In time, social reform and city projects improved life in LES. Today, it is a hub of creativity, cultural enrichment, and fabulous multi-ethnic dining.

Tenement Museum. The story of immigrants in New York is shared and experienced in a unique way at the Tenement Museum. In the 19th and 20th centuries, scores of immigrants came through New York. Tens of thousands of them landed in the Lower East Side, making it one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. The museum is located in a renovated tenement from the 1800s, which housed 7,000 immigrants at one time. With both building and walking tours, the museum celebrates these immigrant stories, while offering a look at life within tenement buildings.

Theater for the New City. Also known as TNC, Theater for the New City is a leading Off-Off Broadway theater dedicated to producing relevant and thought-provoking theater from both seasoned and emerging playwrights. It is also a very active cultural center for the community. TNC has been recognized with many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and many OBIE awards. It has helped launch the careers of many notable theater and film professionals, with a robust season of 40-50 plays and musicals, festivals, community events and more.

Metrograph. This cozy, “boutique” movie theater specializes in screening archive-quality 35mm films—from rarities to classics, premieres, shorts, documentaries, foreign films and more. This hip space also features a Hollywood studio-inspired commissary, a candy store, a lounge, and a bookstore that would delight any cinephile. The Metrograph also hosts book signings, premiere screenings and special events.

Russ & Daughters. A true New York City institution, Russ & Daughters is part restaurant/part historical landmark. After emigrating to America, Joel Russ worked his way up peddling his wares from barrel, to pushcart, to horse and wagon, and finally to several brick and mortar establishments. The location on Houston Street in LES is still in operation and bears his name. Well, his and his daughters’ names, actually—a gutsy move in the 1930s. Today, Russ & Daughters is in its 4th generation, but offers the same high quality fish and dairy products—the last and best of LES’s Jewish “appetizing shops.”

Look for the next installment in our “Metropolis” series to discover must-sees in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan, and the East Village.

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