City shoutouts

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East Side Observer

In praise of city service — Shoutout to the Parks Department. It all happened so quickly. Upper East Siders had questions that the Parks Dept. could answer. Phoned the department. Got Crystal Howard. Told her the question. Gave her my email — and voila, within no time had the answer. Question: which entrances are now open to the Esplanade and which are now closed? Here goes — Open: 60th Street, 63rd Street, 78th Street. Closed: 81st Street entrance is currently blocked because of reconstruction of the pedestrian bridge leading down to the Esplanade. Open: 82nd, 83rd, 84th Streets run into John Finley Walk, which connects to the Esplanade. Open: 85th to 89th Streets run into Carl Schurz Park, where you can access John Finley Walk and then the Esplanade. Open: 96th Street.

And another shoutout to Upper East Sider Madelaine Piel who checked in with Our Town to bring back the news.

From automat (think Horn & Hardart) to automated (think Eatsa) — It took awhile, not forever, and here we are — a people-less restaurant. In the late evening, as I was about to cross at the southwest corner of Lex and 43rd, I noted a new brightly lit establishment (a restaurant?, I’ll have to think about the nomenclature). It was closed. Hours are from 7 AM to 7 PM. Not open on weekends. What I could see were a line of several iPad kiosks on the left for placing orders. At the back is a wall with glass cubicles (“cubbies”) where the food is picked up. It’s all mobile. No upfront staff. Behind the wall is a kitchen staff that prepares the food and places it in the cubbie when it’s ready. The cubbie lights up and the name of the customer appears. No human interaction between staff and customer. Eatsa’s menu is a variety of quinoa bowls with toppings that include guacamole, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, cheese egg, onions, pears, or you can order from a menu selection that includes a burrito bowl, priced at $6.95 a bowl. If you want to read the Eatsa story, check out the February 2016 Business Insider. Eatsa’s the new wave. I’ll get there, maybe. In the meantime, I’m savoring the memories of Horn & Hardhart, when automation meant depositing some coins into a slot, turning a knob, and getting food like baked beans, creamed spinach, buns from behind a dispenser. The 2nd Avenue Deli on 75th and 1st has a wall dedicated to the relic automated dispenser. Just for display. If you want food, you have to be served sitting down at a table. The old fashioned way.

Light of day, night, too — One of the consequences of safety precautions is that they can be unsightly. Scaffolding, meant to protect passersby from falling objects, makes for a blight on light and the appearance of our city streets, among other things. Lexington between 54th and 55th Street on the west side of the street is a prime example. Scaffolding covered the block for what seems like years. Now that it’s down, I found out the name of the restaurant where I stop every morning for takeout — Cafe Olympia. And the name of a smaller version next door I now know is Red Olive. The block is taking on a vibrancy that was hard to see when there was scaffolding. In the last month, BBQ Korilla takeout restaurant opened on the street. Great to finally see it all in daylight. That’s not to say the neighborhood is scaffold-free. There’s new scaffolding right around the corner. Hopefully, not for long.

Good for your health — Walk-in medical facilities, privately owned, are the new commercial kids on the block. Very much needed, they are providing a real service to communities in Manhattan. Names like City MD, Pro Health, Urgent Care, among others. They are not primary health care providers and send reports and results of tests to the primary physician. Plaudits for the new emergency-type health care providers are coming from people of all ages. From moms and dads with young kids to older and younger adults. They speak of the experience and expertise of the physicians. The immediate follow up with the patient about test results and anything that should be looked into. The facilities are clean, attractive. Staff is polite. Nice that something good is happening in health care.

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