Tag Archives: New York City

Architecture: The Brooklyn Bridge

When completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and would remain so for 20 years. It was so well designed and built that it's still going strong while others built in its era have been replaced. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

It takes an abundance of confidence to decide to build a suspension bridge that’s fifty percent longer than the longest one in existence. But that’s what bridge designer John Roebling and his son Washington Roebling did. Until their work was complete, the only way to get from Manhattan to Brooklyn was by ferry. The Brooklyn Bridge, opened in 1883, turned out to be 5,989 feet long. Now, more than 125 years later, it still carries more than 120,000 vehicles a day over the East River, along with untold pedestrians and bicycles.

Uploaded by kickstatic.com.

Although 27 people died during construction, the Roeblings’ design and construction turned out to be ahead of its time. The Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension/cable-stay hybrid, and Washington Roebling tried to build a structure that would be six times as strong as necessary. He succeeded, and the Brooklyn Bridge still is a key part of the New York City transportation matrix long after other bridges have been replaced.

The Brooklyn Bridge became a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The Bridge’s distinctive Gothic design is one reason it ranked number 20 in the AIA’s list of America’s Favorite Architecture. It’s the second bridge on the list, trailing only the Golden Gate (Great American Things, August 21, 2010).

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Americana: The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel opened in 1907, and almost instantly became one of New York's most famous landmarks. That's been helped along by its setting for a wide variety of films, ranging from Plaza Suite to Crocodile Dundee to Sleepless in Seattle. Uploaded by baldpunk.com.

When I made my first visit to New York City as an adult, I had a list of the sights I wanted to see as a first-timer. Like most people, I wanted to go to Times Square (quite a bit edgier back then), Rockefeller Center, and the Metropolitan Museum. But another destination was a place I considered the heart of New York – The Plaza Hotel. I walked through the lobby and thought of all the movers and shakers who had been there before. And I still love the place.

Uploaded by makeherup.com.

Located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, the Plaza has been an integral part of New York since it was built in 1907. At that time, you could stay in a room for $2.50 a night – expect to pay close to a grand for that room today. The Beatles stayed at The Plaza when they came to America in 1964. And Donald Trump once owned the hotel, saying, “I haven’t purchased a building, I’ve purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa.”

Recently, The Plaza underwent renovation and is now 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condo units. No mention of The Plaza is complete without a mention of all the movies filmed there. Some of the more memorable include Funny Girl, Plaza Suite, Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, Scent of a Woman, and Sleepless in Seattle.

Architecture: The Guggenheim

 

Frank Lloyd Wright thought New York was a bad choice for the Guggenheim Museum. Too crowded, too many buildings for his masterpiece to stand out. But Mr. Guggenheim prevailed, and those who love NYC are delighted he did. Uploaded by fanpop.com.

Isn’t it odd how a unique building can divide people initially, then later be revered as one of the country’s greatest works of architecture? That’s the story of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, usually called The Guggenheim. It was Frank Lloyd Wright’s last major design, and it polarized the New York creative crowd. Several artists even signed a letter, saying their works couldn’t be properly displayed in such a limited space.

Uploaded by thedesignfiles.net.

There’s no question that this isn’t The Metropolitan Museum. Wright worked on the drawings for 15 years before settling on the design. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Guggenheim nor Mr. Wright survived to see the building open. When it entertained its first visitors in October, 1959, it transformed the block at 89th Street and 5th Avenue on which it’s situated. And the amazing thing is that it doesn’t look dated at all. It could have been created today, and been just as beautiful and startling as it did more than a half century ago.

But, as I said earlier, this success didn’t come without significant opposition. Many expressed concern that the building would overpower the art inside. Wright answered, “On the contrary, (the purpose) was to make the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never existed in the World of Art before.”

TV Show: New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

 

New Year's Rockin' Eve has been on since 1972 with this formula: prerecorded performances cut in with (usually) Dick Clark doing the countdown in Times Square. Uploaded by dip-ld.com.

If you’re old enough to remember New Year’s celebrations prior to 1972, then you remember the hideous music of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Lombardo was a long-time New Year’s Eve institution, dating back to his first NYE radio broadcast in 1928. Fortunately, Dick Clark (Great American Things, December 14, 2010) had a better idea, and put the word “Rockin'” in his show’s title so a younger generation would know there was a new kid on the block.

Uploaded by tvlistings.zap2it.com.

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been a fixture since then, with the exception of December 31, 1999, when the networks were anticipating that computers would go kerflooey and airplanes would start falling from the sky due to the Y2K bug. The first couple of years found the show on NBC, but it then moved to ABC where it’s thrived ever since. That first year, the musical guests were Blood, Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, Helen Reddy, and Al Green. Just as now, much of the music and the studio celebration was prerecorded, cut in with the live festivities and countdown in Times Square (Great American Things, December 31, 2009).

The show hasn’t quite been the same since the unflappable Dick Clark had his stroke in 2004. Regis Philbin took host duties for a couple of years, but now Ryan Seacrest is the show’s executive producer and co-host. He does a fine job, and in time the show will feel like it belongs to him. In the meantime, whether you like the musical guests or not, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is the place to see the new year arrive in New York City – and regardless of what they show in Sydney or Paris or wherever, it’s not the new year until it comes to Times Square.

Travel: Central Park

 

NYC residents and visitors alike are surrounded by skyscrapers and noise, concrete and asphalt - until they come to the oasis, Central Park. Uploaded by grandcanyon.free.fr.

When Central Park was established back in 1857, New York City’s population had begun to move northward from the downtown area. Though some people lived in the area now covered by the park, to much of Manhattan it was “out in the country.” City officials recognized the need to create open public spaces, and architects Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux won a competition to design the new park.

Uploaded by visitingdc.com.

What they created is bigger than the typical city park, but then, almost everything is bigger in Manhattan. Central Park is roughly 2.5 miles long (from 59th St. to West 110th St.) and .5 mile wide (from 8th Ave. to 5th Ave.). This oasis of green in the asphalt and concrete of the big city has more visitors — more than 25 million each year — than any other city park in America.

The park’s usage has changed over the years. For example, sheep grazed in the area known as Sheep Meadow until about 1930. Now, though, Central Park is committed in large part to recreation and special events. It has walking tracks, bridle paths, skating rinks, small lakes, ball fields, playgrounds, a zoo, and large open areas. Beginning in the sixties, major events made Central Park their home, including summer performances by the the New York Philharmonic, Shakespeare in the Park, and outdoor concerts. As the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation says on its website, “150 years’ worth of visitors have enjoyed and recommended Central Park; don’t you think it’s time for your turn?”

Uploaded by incentralpark.com.

 

Uploaded to Flickr by Andrew Mace.
Uploaded by incentralpark.com.

Uploaded by nyphil.org.

Americana: Macy’s New York

 

Macy's Herald Square store in Manhattan has more than two million square feet of retail space. Uploaded by earthdocumentary.com.

Not many retail establishments can trace their roots back before the Civil War. But R.H. Macy opened his eponymous store at the corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan in 1858, then later moved to 18th Street and Broadway as the business grew. Finally, further growth took the flagship store to 34th Street and Broadway — Herald Square — in 1902, where it remains to this day. Its

Macy's in 1907. Uploaded by flickriver.com.

building, an art deco masterpiece, is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

With about two million square feet of retail space, Macy’s claims to be “The World’s Largest Store.” Maybe it is, but it’s certainly the one that’s been permanently linked in the minds of Americans everywhere as what New York elegance is all about. The Thanksgiving parade (Great American Things, November 25, 2009) for which the company is justifiably proud, dates back to 1924, and is still one of the most anticipated events of the holiday season.

In the last century, Macy’s merged with other department store chains and is now a national brand found at many regional malls. But there’s still something magical about that store in Herald Square. Sure, the branches are Macy’s, but the Manhattan store is MACY’S.

 

Architecture: Grand Central Station

 

With 44 platforms and 67 tracks, Grand Central Terminal (its official name) handles both rail and subway trains in Manhattan. Uploaded by panoramio.com.

As I read about this building in preparation for this post, I find that its correct name is “Grand Central Terminal.” Okay, that’s nice. But most Americans call it “Station,” and that’s good enough for me. Seems to me if you have 44 platforms and 67 tracks, you’re pretty big just to be a simple terminal.

Though railroad buildings have stood on this site since 1871, the current structure began service in 1914. Surprisingly, much of the architectural work

Uploaded by igougo.com.

for which the building is noted was not created by a prominent New York firm, but by the firm of Reed and Stern from St. Paul, Minnesota. It did cooperate on some of the Beaux-Arts with the NYC firm of Warren and Wetmore.

Most people recognize Grand Central for its cavernous main concourse, which has been featured in dozens of movies, from North by Northwest to Men in Black to The Freshman. GCS came in number 13 in the AIA compilation of America’s favorite architecture.

Americana: New York Public Library

When it was built, the New York Public Library was America's largest marble structure. Despite its impressive architecture, what people remember most are Patience and Fortitude - the lions. Uploaded by murrayhill.gc.cuny.edu.

If you have any question about where you are, the lions will tell you. They’ve been presiding over the  New York Public Library since its construction in 1911.

The Library’s funding distinguishes it among most public libraries. Through most of its history, it has been a public/private partnership – public funds paid for the circulation library and its branches, while private money supported the extensive research facilities.

Uploaded by deweyorotherwise.wordpress.com.

When the Library opened, it housed a then-astounding 1,000,000 volumes. Seventy-five miles of shelving were needed, and it took an entire year to bring the collection into the building and set it up. The main reading room is 78 feet wide, 297 feet long, with 52 feet high ceilings.

Uploaded by bowenpress.blogspot.com.

Little-known architects Carrere and Hastings designed the building, which at the time was the largest marble structure in America. But, as beautiful as the building is, it’s the lions sculpted by Edward Clock Potter – named “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia – that have made the building memorable.

I can say from personal experience that there’s no better way to while away a few hours on a beautiful spring afternoon than to sit on the Library’s steps and watch the passing parade of New York City. People-watching at its best.

Architecture: The Chrysler Building

When completed in 1930, the Chrysler Building was the tallest in the world - for eleven months. Then the Empire State Building passed it. Uploaded by jpegwallpapers.com.

For 40 years, the Empire State Building (Great American Things, May 13, 2009) symbolized New York City until the World Trade Center towers dominated the skyline. But then and now, the building that most says “New York” to me is the Chrysler Building.

The Chrysler Building has to be the most graceful skyscraper ever built. Constructed for the automobile company in 1930, it was the world’s tallest building for all of eleven months, until the ESB eclipsed it. Though it served as Chrysler’s headquarters for about 25 years, the company never owned it. Walter Chrysler paid for it himself.

Uploaded by pbs.org.

The building, designed by William Van Alen, is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture. Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser wrote this in their book Architecture in the Twentieth Century: “In a deliberate strategy of myth generation, Van Alen planned a dramatic moment of revelation: the entire seven-storey pinnacle, complete with special-steel facing, was first assembled inside the building, and then hoisted into position through the roof opening and anchored on top in just one and a half hours. All of a sudden it was there—a sensational fait accompli.”

In 2005, a hundred architects, critics, builders, and others were asked to choose their favorite NYC tower. The Chrysler Building was the clear favorite, appearing on 90% of the ballots. And the American Institute of Architects commissioned a Harris Poll to determine America’s 150 favorite buildings – and the Chrysler Building came in at number nine.

Travel: Greenwich Village

Every Village street is like finding another surprise. Uploaded by cs.helsinki.fi.

Every Village street is like finding another surprise. Uploaded by cs.helsinki.fi.

The first several times I went to visit New York City, I wanted to be close to the places I came to see – Rockefeller Center, the Theater District, MOMA. So I stayed in Midtown, and it felt right. But on my most recent trip, I wanted to have a real neighborhood experience. And what better choice than maybe the most famous neighborhood in the world – Greenwich Village.

The Village is in lower Manhattan. Uploaded by modernspacesnyc.com.

The Village is in lower Manhattan. Uploaded by modernspacesnyc.com.

Physically, the Village is bordered by 14th Street on the north, Houston Street on the south, Broadway on the east, and the Hudson River on the west. A generation ago it was a home for the young and the beat generation, hosting writers such as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Today, most artists can’t afford to live in the Village, which has gentrified over the years.

Reflecting its history, some of the streets are narrow and proceed at irregular angles. Good luck finding your way when West 4th Street crosses West 11th.

The famous arch in Washington Square Park. Uploaded to Flickr by wallyg.

The famous arch in Washington Square Park. Uploaded to Flickr by wallyg.

Some of the places that make the Village special include: Washington Square Park, NYU, clubs such as the Village Vanguard, The Blue Note and The Bitter End, the fabulous Magnolia Bakery, and great restaurants like Agave, Tartine, Po, Spotted Pig, and Little Owl.

If you go, the Original Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour is a great way to see the neighborhood. A local guide will take tell you about the area’s history and culture, and you’ll go to small mom and pop restaurants for tastings of the local cuisine. A feast for the eyes, the mind, and the palate!

History: Ground Zero

We remember. We'll always remember. Uploaded by photosthatchangedtheworld.com.

We remember. We'll always remember. Uploaded by photosthatchangedtheworld.com.

The World Trade Center towers proved to be an irresistible target to Islamic terrorists. They attacked it first in 1993, hoping to topple the North Tower into the South Tower. Fortunately, “only” six people were killed. But we didn’t take them seriously. So on September 11, 2002, they finished the job they’d started, this time killing nearly 3,000.

It’s important not to forget the details of those traumatic and treacherous strikes, because those attacks were on us. Not on military professionals who accepted danger as part of their mission, but on civilians. They were our wives and husbands, our parents and children, our friends and co-workers. They were at work, providing for their families, building their futures. They held no particular animosity toward Islam, probably never gave world religions or their grievances a thought.

One rendering of what Ground Zero might become. Uploaded by hawtaction.com.

One rendering of what Ground Zero might become. Uploaded by hawtaction.com.

Also among the dead were brave New York firefighters and police officers, men and women who embodied the concepts of honor, duty, and valor. They knew their jobs and did them, without regard to their own personal safety. If you ever need an example of what a hero embodies, look no further than those who served so selflessly on September 11.

Ever since the country recovered from its initial shock, it was clear that Ground Zero is a living monument. Yet even now, eight years later, there’s not complete agreement on what should be built on the site. New York apparently sees the practical need to replace some of the office space that was eliminated. But the initial plan called for a number of towers to be built, and the current economic climate doesn’t support that much space. And as one person observed, would you place an office tower over the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor? Or allow an IHOP to be built at Auschwitz?

I think the site should be used solely as a monument to the people who lost their lives there on September 11. The rest should be a memorial park. Anything else risks turning an important part of American history into a commercial enterprise – and that could be an unforgivable desecration of hallowed ground.

Travel: Broadway

The TKTS booth, a source for discount show tickets. Uploaded to Flickr by billygiu.

The TKTS booth, a source for discount show tickets. Uploaded to Flickr by billygiu.

Give my regards to Broadway. The Great White Way. The Theater District. The Street of a Million Lights. Okay, I made that last one up. But anyone who’s been to New York and not been to a Broadway show hasn’t had the full Big Apple experience.

According to Robert Rusie’s Talkin’ Broadway, the Theater District stretches from W. 41st St. to W. 53rd St., and only four of the roughly 40 Broadway theaters are actually on Broadway itself.

Lower Broadway in 1925, uploaded by talkinbroadway.com.

Lower Broadway in 1925, uploaded by talkinbroadway.com.

Broadway (the street) has always been the main artery of New York. It went from an Indian trail to a Dutch settlers’ country road, and for a century was the only road that extended the length of the island. Look at a map of NYC today, and you can see that Broadway doesn’t follow the city streets’ grid pattern.

Broadway audiences have become much more casual in recent years, a trend I find somewhat disheartening. If there’s any occasion where dressing up would still be appropriate, it would be to attend a major show at a theater on Broadway. I’m sure the theater owners are glad to have fannies in seats, but those fannies in suits and dresses would be so much better than jeans.

Broadway plays aren’t cheap, but there are several options for getting discount tickets. Most of the options can be found here. For once, there were so many options for today’s video…I particularly enjoyed this one:

Okay, I had to see this one again, too:

TV Show: Seinfeld

The Seinfeld gang. Uploaded by fxuk.com.

The Seinfeld gang. Uploaded by fxuk.com.

Seinfeld is one of only three shows that went off the air while still number one in the ratings (The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy). Who knows how long a “show about nothing” could have continued its run?

All it takes is a few words or a catchphrase to bring back an entire episode. “Yada, yada, yada”…”The puffy shirt”…”The contest”…”No soup for you!”…”Art Vandelay”…”Maybe the dingo ate your baby”…”Hello, Newman”…”Festivus”… “The mansiere”…”Bizarro Jerry”…”Man hands”.

I had to stop myself. Seinfeld captured the zeitgeist of a generation, and took off after a slow start to become can’t miss TV. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were people we knew – or at least, people we believed really existed.We knew that if we made it to the Upper West Side in New York, we’e probably run into them on the street.

Flickr photo uploaded by popartdks.

Flickr photo uploaded by popartdks.

The show stayed on for nine seasons, from 1989 through 1998. It wasn’t a show about “nothing,” but about the minor turbulence of daily life, like waiting in line at the movie theater and renting a car that had an odor.

Almost as funny as the four leads were the minor characters who moved through the Seinfeld landscape. Pardon another list, but it’s just fun to remember Jerry’s and George’s parents, Newman, J. Peterman, Kenny Bania, David Puddy, and Jackie Chiles.

All right, before we get to the video, here’s my favorite quote from the show:

GEORGE: That’s pie country. They do a lot of baking up there. JERRY: They sell them by the side of the road. Blueberry blackberry. GEORGE: Blackberry boysenberry. JERRY: Boysenberry huckleberry. GEORGE: Huckleberry raspberry. JERRY: Raspberry strawberry. GEORGE: Strawberry cranberry. JERRY: (pause) Peach.

Americana: Statue of Liberty

4th of July celebration in New York Harbor. Uploaded by firstpres-sermon1

4th of July celebration in New York Harbor. Uploaded by firstpres-sermon1

Lady Liberty. What a grand nickname. What a great gift from the French, back in the 19th century when they still liked us.

Today, July 4, 2009, marks the first time since the 9/11 attacks that people have been allowed back into her crown. Eventually, some 200,000 people each year will get the unmatched thrill of seeing New York from one of the 25 windows. Not right away, though, as only three groups of 10 are allowed up each hour. You can reserve your “Crown ticket” up to a year in advance. There’s no elevator, so if you want to go, be ready to climb 354 steps up and back down. Oh, and it’s not air conditioned. And there are no bathrooms.

Uploaded by lindaborciani

Uploaded by lindaborciani

The Statue of Liberty is the most recognizable symbol of freedom and democracy in the world. That’s reflected in its official name: “Liberty Enlightening the World,” chosen by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. The internal skeleton was created by Gustave Eiffel, who proceeded to create a pretty famous tower of his own.

It’s impossible to tell now, but the Statue is constructed of copper. Some 62,000 pounds of it, actually. And ours isn’t the only one in existence. Bartholdi created two smaller models as he perfected his design. The first is still in Paris, while the second sits outside the city hall in Maceio, Brazil.

But it’s our majestic Lady Liberty that thrills hundreds thousands of visitors each year. And inspires millions more. Hold that torch high, Lady. We need you now more than ever.

Food: Patsy’s Pizza

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Captain Scooter.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Captain Scooter.

The American pizza community is basically divided into three camps. First, those who like thin crust pizza (let’s call them the “Smart” pizza lovers). Second those who prefer the deep-dish style (also known as people who don’t understand what pizza is all about). In geographic terms, it’s New York vs. Chicago. The final group is California “pizza”, dough topped with goat cheese, bean sprouts, and other things God never meant on pizza.

Okay, maybe I’m a bit biased on this subject. (You think?) I love a crunchy crust, and nothing is crunchier than a pizza made in a coal-fired brick oven. Patsy’s way.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Home Slice Pizza.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Home Slice Pizza.

The original Patsy’s is in East Harlem, going strong since 1932. From most places in Manhattan, it’s a longer way to go for a pizza, not as easy as going around the corner. And its atmosphere can best be described as what atmosphere? But it’s worth it for the pizza… Read what Michael Stern of Roadfood.com had to say about it:

It is the simplest pie imaginable, easy to hoist slice by slice, built on a marvelous thin crust with charred spots all along the edge that have the smoky flavor that only a coal oven delivers. Two versions of plain cheese pizza are available: fresh mozzarella, with thin pools of creamy sliced cheese spread out within the microthin layer of tomato sauce, and regular mozzarella on which saltier, slightly oilier shredded cheese is spread evenly all across the surface. They have a very different nature, topping-wise, but they both sport that marvelous wafer-thin charcoaled crust.

This is one of the Great American Things I haven’t personally had the opportunity to try yet. Next trip to NYC, it’ll be a must-do. The only problem is, I may never be able to eat Pizza Hut or Papa John’s again…