NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

A Good Day At The Boston Athanaeum And A Bad Cup Of Coffee

A really old book bound in human skin AND a wheelchair-accessible venue near the Freedom Trail and the Boston Common in downtown Boston.  What more could you want for a day’s outing?

DSC03627The Boston Athanaeum, 10 1/2 Beacon Street in Boston, was packed to the gills today, at the first open house they’ve had in years.  Five-plus floors of books, art and reading and writing space comprise this National Historic Landmark building.  The library, founded in 1807, is private, although anyone can join by paying an annual membership fee  (individual or family, varies from $200 to $320).  The Athanaeum is accessible by ramp from Beacon Street, and every floor available to members is accessible by elevator.


Park Street station is about a five-minute walk from the Boston Atheneum.

There are a couple of ADA-parking spaces around the corner on Park Street (outside the Paulist Center), although I imagine you are more likely to win the lottery than land one of these downtown parking spaces.  The Park Street MBTA station is wheelchair-accessible, and the short walk or roll up Park Street and around the corner to the library is accessible.  Beware, though, you’re in for a bumpy ride on these Beacon Street sidewalks:  DSC03639

Old Pat The Independent BeggarThe library offers regular guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays; reservations are required.  You might see us tucked into a cozy nook called the Deborah Burnheimer Room….along with two, inviting red leather arm chairs, an enchanting view onto the Granary Burying Ground, and “Old Pat The Independent Beggar” gazing mournfully upon us from his gold-embossed frame on the wall.



Just don’t try to begin or end your day with a coffee from the Thinking Cup, serving Stumptown coffee, on Tremont Street.  Technically the cafe is wheelchair accessible – you can roll in from the street entrance – but once inside you’re trapped in a narrow path that ends in a logjam for wheelchairs at the register and take-out counter.  And yes, there’s a hip vibe, but the coffee is unreliable.  I’ve had one great latte there and then today, one terrible one (that found its way into the trash at the Park Street T station).  I am thinking that at their prices, every cup of coffee at the Thinking Cup should be a superb one AND that the owners need to re-think their accessible traffic flow.

Portland, Oregon: Just Visiting

IMG_3043Living all of my life in or near Boston, Massachusetts, I was certain I’d have an instant affinity for Portland, OR.  So much in common: oceans, city life, a liberal bent, a northern mentality…

I was wrong.  Much as I liked Portland, I just don’t fit in.  Seattle or San Francisco might take me in, but I’ll forever be a visitor to Portland.

For one thing, driving in Portland is like entering the Twilight Zone. There are road markings I’ve never seen in my life (the 2-foot wide green strip on the right side of the road couldn’t possibly be the bike lane, right?), bikers zoom at you out of nowhere and the pedestrians look like Zombies on parade, taking a break from their headphones and i-things to menace drivers with a single scowl.  The city has special and strange lines on the street for bus traffic  – I imagine bus travel is the third most-preferred form of travel (after foot and pedal) because it is so green.  The welcome sight of the highway warmed my speedy little Boston heart, and I vowed to return to Portland only on foot or wheel.

Second, true to the stickers you see everywhere – “Be nice- You’re in Oregon!” – the people are by and large very friendly (unless you’re a car driver sharing the road with a biker or pedestrian, maybe).  But the constant admonishment to “Be Nice – You’re in Oregon!” began to raise my ornery, Massachusetts, stand-offish hackles a wee bit.  When you say, “be nice” does that mean I have to talk to you and hear about your day, even though you are a stranger?  What more will you want from me?  Is this a scam or something?!

Last but not least, I have no hipster vibe or clothing.  No piercings or tats.   I do have a travel espresso mug (the coolness of which IS remarked upon by the barista from Oregon that works at my local Peet’s) but that hardly cuts it here.  I just don’t fit in.

But I’ll return, and you might consider a visit, too.  Here are some travel goods:

-We stayed at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland, which was a mistake.  It’s expensive, tacky, run down and noisy (both inside and out).  The hotel has made wheelchair modifications, but because it’s an old building, they are jerry-rigged.  There’s a lift but it’s squeezed into a corner, the halls are narrow and the elevators small, and the restaurant (which is only partially accessible) is crowded by tables and chairs. I am told there are rooms that meet ADA specifications.

– This is where I would stay:  the Ace Hotel.  Entrance is through the adjoining Stumptown’s front door – and wow, do they have fantastic coffee….and smiling baristas.  Cool downtown spot, with ample lobby seating and wheeling area in front of big plate glass windows (perfect for your Stumptown espresso and people watching).   Although there is only street parking, there is a garage two blocks down and the sidewalks are easily wheelchair accessible.  There are several wheelchair-accessible rooms (I couldn’t see any of them but I was told the showers are roll in with grab bars and the doorways meet ADA standards). Plus, pets are welcome! Woo hoo.

-Good coffee and breakfast at accessible Caffe Destino in Northeast Portland. Wheelchair accessible, with ADA parking spaces nearby. Walked one block over to Whole Foods  for lunch for our day trip to the Columbia River Gorge area.

-Troutdale (east of Portland on the Columbia River, on I-84) is about 40 minutes from the Whole Foods mentioned above and is and the beginning of Oregon’s scenic Route 30 drive.  Plenty of pull-outs for photos along the way, and a wheelchair-accessible rest stop called the Vista House at Crown Point. The Vista House has ADA parking spaces, is well-ramped, and has a lift from the first floor to the lower floor, where the photo gallery, gift shop and the rest rooms are.

We continued on the curving road through moss-laden Douglas fir trees (also known as Oregon pines) first to Multnomah Falls, part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (  The full loop can take 3-5 hours. Another option to doing the drive out and back along Route 30 is to take Route 35S, after the Hood River Exit 63, drive past Mount Hood, and then return to Portland.

– Another great lodging option outside of Portland proper is McMenamin’s Edgfield.  The McMenamin family has converted about half a dozen abandoned properties in the Portland area, and this one was formerly a Poor Farm, built around 1913. The property is almost completely wheelchair-accessible, including garden paths, a glass-blowing gallery, an outdoor cafe, the pool hall and game room on the basement level, the Black Rabbit restaurant, the gift shop and espresso bar, the first-floor bathroom and accessible hotel rooms. The building is ramped from the outside to the lower level, where a highly-decorated elevator brings you to floors one and two. All this and an outdoor concert space too! Although I didn’t see them, I am assured the accessible rooms have ADA-defined wide doors, roll-in showers and grab bars. There seem to be plenty of ADA parking spaces. There’s a lot to do here, and it’s a great gateway to the above-mentioned scenic drives. We had lunch at the Black Rabbit, and although it was so-so, the wait staff were attentive and the restaurant was easy to maneuver in a chair.

Lucky Staehly, one of the residents of the Poor-Farm-Turned-Nursing-Home, is commemorated in several pieces of artwork on the walls.  Lucky used a wheelchair and was a “pool shark, ladies’ man and wheelchair racer” – love it!

-If you love the outdoors, see the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, which has good ADA parking, an ADA path called the Trillium Trail and an accessible nature center (, about 20 minutes from downtown Portland.


Anchorage, Alaska Is Surprisingly Accessible

IMG_2887Alaska is the home of the grizzly bear, avid fisher-folk, cruise-ship mavens, hipsters and artists, and the highly-caffeinated. It is not, in general, an easy state for a wheelchair-user to navigate, but Anchorage stands out as an oasis.  (In the summer, that is.)

I prefer big hotel chains for accessibility, because they tend to be more predictable. The downtown Hilton Anchorage was bleh and expensive but accessible. (I do, however, thoroughly applaud the usefulness of their website for wheelchair travelers.  If only all hotel websites were this descriptive!)

I would suggest staying downtown, as the sidewalks are wide, wheelchair-friendly, and there are many well-timed pedestrian walk lights (meaning that you can actually get across the street before a rented Jeep or truck with mounted gun-rack mows you down).

You can easily spend a day or two in Anchorage.  Here’s what I’d suggest:

– drink espresso (Kaladi Brothers is accessible and excellent) but skip Side Street Espresso (terrible latte and so-so egg burritos)
– eat the salted caramel ice cream at Fat Ptarmigan (their pizza establishment next door gets great reviews, and they’ve got locally brewed beer too) IMG_2911
– visit the Anchorage Museum (couldn’t peel my 13-year-old from the interactive science displays, had a fantastic meal at Muse in the museum, appreciated the multi-faceted display on Alaskan culture, was transfixed by the earthquake monitor and tsunami display on the second floor; GREAT exhibit on ocean trash, photo below)IMG_2899
– go on Saturday to the Anchorage Market and Festival (it’s accessible and you can find art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, food and more food).  Loved Octopus Ink‘s clothing and crafts (they have a shop and are represented at the Saturday market too — or you can buy online)
– motor or wheel on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (11 miles of views, although check on the status of the bridge before you go; if it’s still out, your trip on pavement will be considerably shorter)IMG_2916
– indulge your inner outdoor-enthusiast and go shopping at 6th Avenue Outfitters

From Anchorage, drive the Seward Highway for some breath-taking views and wheelchair-friendly pull-outs (some even have ADA port-a-potties).  National Geographic published a piece with suggested places to stop on the highway.

DSC_0088Anchorage and its surrounds provide an adventurous day or two (maybe three) if you’re a slow walker or wheelchair-user. Those long daylight hours of summer give you even more time to get around, and the abundance of espresso shops can only help keep you motoring along.