Walking Across the George Washington Bridge & Washington Heights Kosher
Want to pay no toll and no bus or train fare into New York City? There is a way – walk. There is only one way to walk from New Jersey, however. This is over the George Washington bridge. There is actually a decent amount of parking to be found in Fort Lee right near the bridge on many of the side streets. Don’t worry about having to park 0.2 or even 0.5 miles from the bridge itself, because you’re about to walk a little under a mile across the bridge itself and then about another mile for kosher food. This is actually quite short – compare to the Verrazano bridge (connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn) at about 2.7 miles long and the Tappan Zee bridge (crossing the Hudson 25 miles north of the George Washington Bridge) at over 3 miles long. Fun facts: The Verrazano is a suspension bridge for which the towers at each end take into account the curvature of the Earth which is a factor at this length. The Tappan Zee is actually at the widest spot on the Hudson river which is a silly place to build a bridge … but it just so happens to be just over 25 miles from New York City which is just outside the jurisdiction of the Port Authority which refused to build another bridge in order to protect their tolls and investment in the George Washington Bridge.
After finding a parking spot near Fort Lee park on the one side, you follow the signs up to the south side, upper level of the George Washington Bridge where there is a foot path. This is the only foot path that is open and traffic goes in both directions. It’s about the width of four people comfortably walking … though bikes come at you from both directions. It’s closed from midnight to 6 am and it’s a very straight path … except for slight detours around the side of each tower. Along the way, the bridge will give you the bright idea of committing suicide with frequent reminders that if you’re going to do it, here’s a good place to try.
At the other end you enter New York City and upper Manhattan … well, Washington Heights to be precise. You can now enjoy the park on the other side of the bridge – Fort Washington Park. Both of these parks have significant revolutionary war history where taxation was seen as a pretty good reason to characterize a few very provoked deaths as a “massacre” and in turn, cause death and disease (causing more death) in hundreds of thousands of people through a war. (Ends justify the means?) (Now Hamilton is an amazing musical, but I’m the side of Rabbi Avigdor Miller and lean towards Bishop Samuel Seabury on this one – fight for your freedom without, you know, killing people.)
Keep on walking to the East and you soon encounter a subway. The 175th street station has the A line which will take you all the way to Far Rockaway as well as Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan including Penn Station where you can change to a myriad of other train lines. You might think it’s pretty brave of you to do this trip and arrive at your friend in Far Rockaway, telling him you walked from Fort Lee but you’d be mistaken. True story: we were out for a seudah on the last day of Passover so my friend, a recent ba’al teshuvah instead accepted an invitation in Brooklyn. Leaving at 3am from Passaic with plans to arrive at the bridge at 6am opening, he made it there at 7am. It was also Shabbos so he wasn’t carrying a map and we’ll let it slide that he didn’t yet know the laws of techumim. Then he walked down town, stopping to pray Schachris in the upper west side being the 10th man for a minyan. I have to find which minyan this was because they’re probably telling stories about how Eliyahu HaNavi came to complete their minyan on Passover before disappearing right after they were done. Then he arrived in Brooklyn in time for ‘lunch’ by 2pm. Can’t make this up. (Maybe he can, but I don’t think so.) His chief complaint? When he took the bus back after Shabbos, it dropped him off two miles away.
Suppose you don’t decide to take the subway (or walk to Brooklyn) – keep heading east and go about half a mile north, up to 181st and you’ll hit Yeshiva University. There, you’ll find the famed library where so many matches between young Jewish boys and girls are made and some college-style kosher restaurants. (As opposed to kosher-style college restaurants, these are, in fact, college-style kosher restaurants. I don’t think you’d have a business meeting in these places, but if you want to find oil for your menorah, it’s all here) You have your choice of:
Meat – Golan Heights – Shawarma, falafel, Israeli-style salads & more in a kosher storefront setting with counter service.”
Pizza – Grandma’s Pizza (?!?! Don’t grandmother’s make kneidel?) or Lake Como
Chinese – Chop Chop – “Classic Chinese dishes & sushi with kosher modifications, all served in a colorful space.”
Then you enjoy your 2.5 mile walk back to New Jersey . . . or hail an Uber.