Walking the Manhattan Eruv

After the US finally approved my visa request, I was able to join Natalia in Boston in mid-February. A bit busy to post updates, photos and whatnot, I thought spring break would be, well, a break.

But, not so much, as we headed down to New York to visit friends.

Here, one of the more quirky attractions I wanted to visit was the Manhattan Eruv.

An eruv is a ritual jewish enclosure made for the purpose of allowing activities which are normally prohibited on Shabbat, specifically allowing carrying things between private and semi-private domains, like using a walking stick, or pushing a stroller.
To achieve this, the line turns the enclosed area into a ‘private’ space.

Indeed, this perhaps allows for following the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit.

The Manhatten Eruv runs around most of the island of Manhatten, was begun in 1999, has its own website, and is about 33km long.

Or so I read.

The obvious thing that sprang to my mind, was to walk the eruv. The second thing was that this must have already been done.
Yet, this didn’t seem to be the case, though I did find someone who has walked the perimeter of Manhatten, which is even longer, and I found another person who is walking every street in New York.

So, with only a few days to spare, I decided to be bold, and walk the Manhattan Eruv.

Walking the Manhattan Eruv

Narrative

It’s 6.52am, and the sun isn’t yet up, as I leave the house we are staying at. I make my way to the nearest shoreline, on the west side of Manhattan. I was expecting to find the eruv strung up, above me, in accordance with the map on the official Manhattan Eruv website.

But, all I find, at least at first, are, at best, occasional lines of fishing wire strung between adjacent poles. 

Some 45 minutes later, I spot what, almost certainly, must be the eruv. However, very clearly, one wire is hanging off a pole, dancing in the wind, unconnected.

At around 8:30, just after 59th street, I catch the first few rays of sunshine. I’m chasing the longest continuous wire, yet. It zigzags across the road, in contradiction to how the map lists the route, and on a few occasions seems to split into multiple directions.  
Some 10 minutes later, this line ends.

Just before 9am, I run into a demonstration in front of the Chinese consulate. Falung Gong representatives accost me on signing a petition against the CCP. I decline, but we have a nice chat, and the lady gives me a small memento to tie to my bag.

I realise that, if I had walked the eruv counter-clockwise I would have caught more sun.

About 30 minutes later, I reach the High Line. It’s already clear to me that, at best, the map of the eruv is wildly incorrect, at worst it doesn’t exist. I decide to roughly keep following the path of where the wire is supposed to be strung, but allowing myself some leeway, meaning I now make a small loop to get myself onto the High Line. 

There, I stumble upon a statue highlighting the plight of Mexican immigrants, as well as a dozen High Line staff working on the flora.

On the High Line

An hour later, I arrive at the corner of West Street and Battery City Park. The route of the wire is supposed to be off to the east, following the shore, but I can not spot a wire doing this. 
Could it be the balustrade is somehow part of the encircling of Manhattan?

I keep going straight to be able to see the WTC memorial.

At 11, at the pool for the second tower, I encounter a woman who sticks a flower into the first letter of the recessed name of one of the victims of the terrorist attack. She brushes her hand over the name a few times, as if to wipe away the dirt.
The slabs are meticulously clean.

Flower

15 minutes later, I get to Battery Park, the southern-most point on my walk today. In the distance I see the Statue of Liberty.

Just after noon, At Catherine Slip Malls, a little park named after the daughter of a mayor, a black woman is doing the hair of what I presume is her son, sitting on a bench, playing video games on his phone.
The mom is singing. They eye me with suspicion.

Related:  J-walk.co.za

An hour later, I pass by The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space. It is closed.

Moving up Manhattan, on the east side of the island, I occasionally spot the wire, then notice it being broken, or just disappearing. For example, the wire zigzags up 2nd Ave, then enters 40th street, according to the map, one street too early. Only to be obviously broken, one pole in.

The eruv is down... I repeat, the eruv is down

Looking for a coffee, I find a bubble tea shop with a good deal. They don’t accept credit cards. Then, at 2:30pm, a Dunkin’ has an even better deal. Coffee and cookies for just a few bucks. I have become American; walking the streets of New York with an oversized coffee cup, occasionally sipping the nectar.

Half an hour later, I spot a sandwich place that claims it has got the sandwich that was voted best in America. A lady stops to chat and tells me that one avenue over, there’s another famous sandwich shop. She hasn’t tried either.

A good hour on, I make it to Marcus Garvey Memorial Park. I want to clime the fire tower, but it is closed. 

I nibble on my first cookie.

Thirty minutes later, I pass by Revolution Books, walk in, and end up in a thirty minute discussion on the situation in the Ukraine, and the New Communism by Bob Avakian.

Shortly after, I take a quick gander at Bill’s Place, where Billie Holiday was discovered in 1933, and then take in the Cosmogram at the Schönburg library. I’m not allowed onto the second floor, preventing me to take a good picture.

At 5pm, I reach 145th street, the northern most street on my walk. The wire should have followed me for the last two blocks, but it comes in from the waterside.
I cross the road to see where it’s coming from, but right on the other side of the avenue, it already ends.

According to the map, 145th should be where the wire crosses back from the eastern to the western side of the island, But, at least part of 145th is without wire.

Having reached the western edge of 145th, the northern most point on my route, I head south again. I pass by the mausoleum of Ulysses S. Grant, the largest mausoleum in the US.

A few minutes later, I close the loop I started, and head back to the house. 

I’ve walked just under 50km.

Log

Here’s the log of my experiences, of walking the Manhattan Eruv on March 15, 2022.

6:52
I leave the house. It is dawn, the sun is not yet up.

6:59
Where there eruv should be, I don’t find it.
I start walking where, according to the map on the official Manhattan Eruv website, the eruv should be.

7:10
I come across a statue of Kossuth Lajos.

7:11
The tops of the skyscrapers are showing the sun has risen.

7:16
I catch a first glimpse of what I think is the eruv. It is not connected, spanning only three poles.

7:29
I see what appears to be a wire between some street lights, but it only spans two poles.

7:31
At W 95th, the map of the eruv lists a caveat on a complicated situation of the route of the wire. 
I spot what, almost certainly, must be the eruv. However, very clearly, one wire is hanging off a pole, dancing in the wind, unconnected.

7:37
Surveying the lay of the land, I pick up what seems like the route of the eruv… only to find it stops connecting poles a short while later.

7:41
I break fast with an apple.

7:50
I come across a memorial to the Warsaw ghetto.

7:51
I get a good look at what I think could be the freedom tower. It’s skinny, which makes me think it might not be the tower.

7:57
I break 5k.

8:05
I come across the Eleanor Roosevelt memorial.

8:07
I see a number of lines spanning some poles, exactly where the eruv should be, according to the map, but the line is broken in multiple places.

8:14
I find a longer connected wire… which again only spans a few poles.

8:19
The street I’m in, which should be on the path of the wire, has no usable poles for spanning a line.

8:26
On 11th avenue, again, where there should be a wire. There isn’t. A bit later, I spot a wire, but coming from the wrong side of the road. Only for it to disappear almost immediately.

Related:  Shorelines

8:29
Coming from 59th, I pick up another wire.

8:34
I’m chasing the longest continuous wire, yet. But, it zigzags across the road, contradicting the map, and on a few occasions seems to split into multiple directions.

I also catch the first rays of sun.

8:42
At W 48th, the line ends.

8:43
A block later, a line arrives from the opposite side of the street.

8:46 
The wire turns on 45th, not 42nd, as per the map. But also continous straight.

8:51
At 42nd, there’s a wire on the north side of the street, not the south, as per the map.

8:57
I run into a demonstration in front of the Chinese consulate. Falung Gong representatives accost me on signing a petition against the Chinese state.
I decline, but we have a nice chat, and the lady gives me a small memento to tie to my bag.

9:01
I realize that if I would have walked the eruv counter clockwise, I would have caught more sun.

9:07
I’ve walked 10k.

9:10
I make a small detour to see The Vessel. It’s closed.

9:12
I have another apple.

9:17
At 27th street, the wire is not there at all.

9:21
I do a small loop to get onto the High Line.

9:29
I stumble upon a statue highlighting the plight of Mexican immigrants, as well as a dozen High Line staff working on the flora.

On the High Line

9:37
I leave the high line to take a peak at Chelsea Market.

I’ve got 12.5km in, I break for a cheese Danish at Sarabeth’s. It’s surprisingly good.

9:54
I should be picking up the wire again at 14th street, but it simply isn’t there.

9:56
I detour into Little Island.

10:00
I get a good view of the Freedom Tower.

10:14
I’ve completed 15k.

10:32
I arrive at the corner of West Street and Battery City Park. The route of the wire is supposed to be off to the east, following the shore, but I can not spot a wire doing this. 

I keep going straight to see the WTC grounds.

10:44
I get too to the WTC memorial. Things have changed somewhat since the last time I was here.

The recessed water works are impressive.

10:54
At the pool for the second tower, I encounter a woman who sticks a flower into the first letter of the recessed name of one of the victims of the terrorist attack. She brushes her hand over his name a few times, as if to wipe away the dirt.

The slabs are meticulously clean.

Flower

11:00
Walking around, I find several more roses stuck in the names on the slabs.

11:14
I arrive at Battery Park, just off the southern most point of my walk today.

In the distance, I can see the Statue of Liberty.

11:26
I reach the 20k mark.

11:45
21.5km under my belt, I have another apple, taking a short break, lounging in the sun, just south of the Brooklyn bridge.

12:04
At Catherine Slip Malls, a little park named after the daughter of a mayor, a black woman is doing the hair of what I presume is her son, sitting on a bench in the little park, playing video games on his phone.

The mom is singing. They eye me with suspicion.

12:22
I stray away from the waterfront for some urban variation and the chance of a place to get a sandwich.

I’m in the projects; brick uniform high rises with little commercial space.

12:29
I find a supermarket and buy the ingredients for a sandwich.

12:38
I’ve now walked just over 25k.

12:53
In a colourful little park, La Plaza Cultural, I have my sandwich.

13:09
I pass by The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space. It is closed.

13:28
I pass by a number of huge NYU buildings.

13:42
From 1st Ave, arriving at 38th, I should be meeting the eruv, coming from the shoreline.

I don’t, but a line arrives at the corner, from across the street on 1st, and zigzags down 38th, to continue up 2nd Ave.

13:49
The wire zigzags up 2nd, then enters 40th, according to the map, one street too early. Only to be obviously broken, one pole in.

The eruv is down... I repeat, the eruv is down

13:54
I cross the 30k mark.

13:55
Back on 2nd, I pick up two new lines going north. They join, and continue as one. Then it’s clearly entangled and cut in a tree just a few blocks up.

Related:  walk · listen · create

13:59
A line comes in from 44th street, and again continuous up 2nd Ave.

14:05
After a few times going back and forth along 2nd Ave, the line again appears to end, just before 50th.

14:16
I pas the Roosevelt Island Tramway. I see no moving cable cars.

14:20
I walk in to a bubble tea shop that has a special on coffee. Minimum credit card charge is more than the cost of the coffee, and I have to forgo the drink.

14:25
A Dunkin’ has an even better deal. Coffee and cookies. I have become American; walking the streets of New York with an oversized coffee cup, occasionally sipping the nectar.

14:36
I pass by restaurant A la Turka, showing of photos of celebrities posing with the chef, including a young Forrest Whitaker.

14:52
I spot a sandwich place that claims it has got the sandwich that was voted best in America.

A lady stops to chat and tells me that one avenue over, there’s another famous sandwich shop. She hasn’t tried either.

14:57
I complete 35k.

15:13
Arriving at 111th avenue, the wire should come in from the shore. It does, and I turn west, again on the trail of the line.

15:17
The line zigzags to 3rd Ave, and then turns south, as opposed to continuing west to park Ave, as it should according to the map.

I decide to continue on 111th.

15:20
One avenue over, in Lexington, the wire comes back up from the south and continuous down 111th.

15:23
Arriving at Park Ave, the wire seems to end under the raised train line.

15:39
I want to climb the fire watch tower in Marcus Garvey Memorial Park, but it is closed.

I nibble on my first cookie.

15:56
I pass by Revolution Books, walk in, and end up in a thirty minute discussion on the situation in the Ukraine, and the new communism by Bob Avakian.

16:17
40k under my belt.

16:29
I take a quick gander at Bill’s Place, where Billie Holiday was discovered in 1933.

16:40
I have a look at the Cosmogram at the Schönburg library. I’m not allowed onto the second floor, preventing me to take a good picture.

16:52
I reach 145th, the northern most street on my walk. The wire should have followed me for the last two blocks, but it comes in from the waterside.

I cross the road to see where it’s coming from, but right on the other side of the avenue, it already ends.

17:04
I have another apple.

17:08
And another. My last.

17:14
At least part of 145th is without wire.

17:17
I reach the corner of 145th, the northern most point on my walk. I turn south.

17:18
A bit more than a marathon, I complete 45k.

17:36
I pass by the mausoleum of Ulysses S. Grant, the largest mausoleum in the US.

17:38
I close the loop.

17:43
I enter the house

Thoughts

Significantly longer than I anticipated, this walk was an interesting experience. Obviously, the official map of the Manhattan Eruv does not appear to be correct. But, what’s more, it appears to me the eruv is not at all forming a closed loop, as it should, making it unable to serve the purpose for which it was enacted.

A 2019 NPR article mentions that the upkeep of the eruv costs up to 150.000 USD per year, and that the eruv is checked for closure every Thursday and, if it isn’t, is fixed the day after.
The official website of the Manhattan Eruv also is weekly updated to state the eruv has been checked.
That said, the map in the NPR article is very different from the map on the official website, with the NPR map already being three years old at the time the article was published.

Circumstantial evidence suggests the Manhattan Eruv is actively maintained.
But, is it? The number of breaches and inconsistencies I found was significant. I’d be impressed if these can be fixed in one day. And, it’s very likely that, given the large number of breaches I saw on my walk, breaches occur so regularly that it’s not probable that, on a Saturday after implementing fixes on a Friday, the eruv is still completely up.