New York City Impressions

November 25, 2013

Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

No one is really a stranger to New York City.  Its iconic buildings and neighborhoods feel familiar even to visitors whose only previous experience of the city is through images in movies, magazines, and photographs.  This was just my second time in NYC, and for me it is a city of multi-level row houses, water tanks atop tall buildings, fire escapes, piles of garbage accumulating relentlessly, and of course, people.  Crowded streets and subways, yellow taxis, and blue Citibikes.  Jaywalkers. Long lines.

I spent one morning on a loop walk that took me down some streets that Frommer’s identified as “The Best Walks” in New York City.  From my niece’s apartment in the East Village, I walked south to Prince Street.  There I stopped in the original Dean and Deluca’s, wandered up Sullivan to Greenwich Village, and then strolled down West 4th Street to Gansevoort.  From there I walked the High Line to West 28th Street, then east past the flower district to Broadway.  Heading south, I passed the Flatiron Building and then walked east again to Irving Place where I had a clear view of the Chrysler Building and enjoyed the squirrels frolicking in Gramercy Park.  The walk confirmed my impressions of this great city.  Here are some photos:

East Village apartment

East Village apartment

Fire escapes

Fire escapes

Water tank atop building near Cooper Square

Water tank atop building near Cooper Square

Row houses of West 4th St in Greenwich Village

Row houses off West 4th St in Greenwich Village

Row house off West 4th St

Row house off West 4th St

One of many docking station for NY's Citibikes seen from the High Line

One of many docking stations for NY’s Citibikes seen from the High Line

More Citibikes in Chelsea

More Citibikes in Chelsea

Edward Steichen's famous photo of the Flatiron Building, 1904

Edward Steichen’s famous photo of the Flatiron Building, 1904

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steichen_flatiron.jpg)

My photo of the Flatiron Building, manipulated with special effects

My photo of the Flatiron Building, manipulated with special effects

Clear view of Chrysler Building from Irving Place

Clear view of Chrysler Building from Irving Place

These images seemed to repeat themselves regardless of where I walked.

Water tank amidst skyscrapers near MoMa

Water tank amidst skyscrapers near MOMA

Row houses in Brooklyn

Row houses in Brooklyn

Surprisingly, I was not discomfited by the crowds.  They made me feel safe walking by myself, as I knew there were always people nearby to help with directions or in the event of a problem.  I was alone, but never alone.  The movement of so many people around this city is impressive.

Looking into the next subway (train) car

Looking into the next subway (train) car

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

Reading room at the New York Public Library

Reading room at the New York Public Library

And finally, a word of thanks to Starbucks, whose ubiquitous coffee shops were always welcome beacons when I was seeking a clean bathroom or wi-fi connections.

Watercolor sketch of Starbucks' red holiday cup

Watercolor sketch of Starbucks’ red holiday cup

“Any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake.”
— Luis Barragan (1902 – 1988), from The Architect Says:  Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom, ed. Laura S. Dushkes

St. Malachy's Actor's Chapel

St. Malachy’s Actor’s Chapel

You can find respite from the bustle of New York City in numerous places, for example, by stepping inside any of its churches and places of worship.  They were always an oasis of calm.  We checked out St. Malachy’s Actors’ Chapel while we were waiting for the lottery for Book of Mormon tickets.  The low-lit interior was a refreshing contrast to the glaringly insistent neon of Times Square, just a couple of blocks away.

Interior with angels, St. Malachy's Actors' Chapel

Interior with angels, St. Malachy’s Actors’ Chapel

Another very special retreat in Midtown Manhattan is the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Saint Peter’s Church.  This space and its wall sculptures and furnishings were designed by sculptor Louise Nevelson.  It brought to mind the chapel Matisse designed in Vence, France — such an all-embracing work of art.  (Thank you, Linda, for the suggestion to see this.)

Chapel of the Good Shepherd

Chapel of the Good Shepherd

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Of course, wherever I travel, I know I can find a contemplative place in its libraries.

“The library is often the place where you can find the spirit of the monk:  in silence, the lustre of old woodwork, the smell of ageing paper, reading, retreat from the world, rules and authorities, tradition, volumes of wisdom, catalogues for contemplation.”
— Thomas Moore, Meditations

I loved the traditional look and quiet rooms of the Morgan Library and Museum.  I regret that we did not take the time to enjoy the Beatrix Potter exhibit there, but you can see an online version of the exhibit, which featured some of her letters with pictures, here.

The Morgan Library

The Morgan Library

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We walked from the Morgan Library to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.  Even before we got there, I knew this would be a special experience because the street leading up to the front doors is called “Library Walk,” and it is lined with plaques embedded in the sidewalk that feature literary quotes.

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Plaques celebrating reading and good books

An example of a plaque with a bookish quote

An example of a plaque with a bookish quote

This library has a beautiful reading room and grand spaces.

NYPL on Fifth Avenue

NYPL on Fifth Avenue

Busy foyer

Busy foyer

Busy, but quiet, Reading Room

Busy, but quiet, Reading Room

A quiet nook at the main entrance

A quiet nook at the main entrance

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
— Jorge Luis Borges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manhattan: City of Bridges

February 5, 2013

“Along the iron veins that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the fiery pulses of its exertion, hotter and faster every hour.  All vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into the central cities . . .”
— John Ruskin

Traffic on the Queensboro Bridge

Traffic on the Queensboro Bridge

I don’t know if Ruskin was referring to bridges or railroad tracks, but his images of “iron veins” and “throbbing arteries” certainly fit the bridges of Manhattan Island and their flow of traffic.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and under the Manhattan Bridge, but we saw the Queensboro Bridge from the air when we rode the Roosevelt Island tram across the East River.  The tram runs parallel to the bridge.  The tram fare is covered with your Metro pass.

Roosevelt Island tram

Roosevelt Island tram

Queensboro Bridge viewed from the tram

Queensboro Bridge viewed from the tram

Brooklyn Bridge across the East River

Brooklyn Bridge across the East River

Brooklyn Bridge with Freedom Tower

Brooklyn Bridge with Freedom Tower

Manhattan Bridge (posterized photo)

Manhattan Bridge (posterized photo)

View of Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn

View of Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn

 

“These vagabond shoes
are longing to stray
right through the very heart of it —
New York, New York!”
— Fred Ebb, lyricist

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan

“New York City worked its way into my life at a walking pace.”
— Teju Cole, Open City

One of my favorite New York City experiences was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  We took the subway and exited at the first stop in Brooklyn so that we would be looking at views of NYC’s skyline as we walked back toward Manhattan.  We could see the Freedom Tower, still under construction on the site of the former World Trade Center and the Empire State Building.  We also got our very first look at the Statue of Liberty!

Looking at the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn waterfront (Jane's Carousel under the bridge)

Looking at the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn waterfront (Jane’s Carousel under the bridge)

Flag atop Brooklyn Bridge

Flag atop Brooklyn Bridge

View of Empire State Building from the Brooklyn Bridge

View of Empire State Building from the Brooklyn Bridge

Looking back toward Brooklyn

Looking back toward Brooklyn

Looking back toward Brooklyn

Looking back toward Brooklyn

Lover's locks -- people throw the key into the river -- on the Brooklyn Bridge

Lover’s locks — people throw the key into the river — on the Brooklyn Bridge

We were puzzled by the locks, and read up about this phenomenon when we got home

We were puzzled by the locks, and read up about this phenomenon when we got home

Lamp post, Brooklyn Bridge

Lamp post, Brooklyn Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan

“The art of drifting was an antimapping experience and the idea was to wander, to meander around a city, at every moment being alive to whatever drew you.  You were in thrall to the spirit of place, rather than having place under your thumb, on a map, on a plan.”
— Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey

Planning vs. anti-mapping

Planning vs. anti-mapping

New York City is a walker’s paradise.  And although we did walk a lot, and sometimes even meander, I was glad that I had taken the time to do some trip planning before arrival.  My research resulted in a list of things I wanted to see and do during our short, first visit to this metropolis, and by plotting their locations on my AAA map of Manhattan, I was able to get a better sense for planning our days so as not to miss anything.  Perhaps if we had more time, we would have been able to practice the art of drifting.

New York is a city of skyscrapers, bridges, benches, garbage, eateries, distinct neighborhoods . . . Today’s post is about first impressions.

Looking up -- one way to appreciate NYC's skyscrapers

Looking up — one way to appreciate NYC’s skyscrapers

Street viewed from the Roosevelt Island tram

Street viewed from the Roosevelt Island tram

The skyscrapers formed deep canyons.  Depending on the light, they threw interesting reflections on neighboring buildings and traffic.

“It is by all odds the loftiest of cities . . . Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow.  This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty.”
— E. B. White, Here is New York

The traffic was nonstop, but we quickly learned to jaywalk like native New Yorkers.  (In Seattle we are not used to jaywalking!)

Reflections on the windows of cars and taxis

Reflections on the windows of cars and taxis

Skyscraper reflections

Skyscraper reflections

The city’s inhabitants create a prodigious amount of garbage, as you can imagine.  There was quite a bit of litter, and every day piles of garbage bags and garbage containers lined the streets — in every neighborhood.

Garbage lining the street in the Upper East Side

Garbage lining the street in the Upper East Side

We expected to see fire escapes in the multi-story buildings — an iconic NY architectural feature.  But we were surprised to see wooden water tanks on the roof tops of tall buildings.  We could see a dozen or more water tanks just from the 17th story window of our Mid-town hotel.  New York is a mix of old and new — sometimes a shorter (older) building survived between tall high rises.

Fire escapes -- interesting patterns of dark and light

Fire escapes — interesting patterns of dark and light

Two round, wooden water tanks on the rooftops

Two round, wooden water tanks on the rooftops

Shoulder to shoulder with its taller neighbors, this "little" building survives!

Shoulder to shoulder with its taller neighbors, this “little” building survives!

Often, in the narrow spaces between tall buildings, we’d find gated community gardens and “pocket” parks.  They looked scraggly in winter, but I could imagine them as vibrant, green spaces in summer.

Folk-art sculpture in a tiny community space

Folk-art sculpture in a tiny community space

Another little fenced in park in a small space between buildings

Another little fenced in park in a small space between buildings

We loved seeing the old row houses on the side streets leading off West 4th between 7th Avenue and West 12th in Greenwich Village.  Frommer’s named this “the most beautiful street” in New York City.

Historic row houses

Historic row houses

Mason's Row

Mason’s Row

We tried (twice, on two different evenings) to win discount tickets to The Book of Mormon play, but alas, our names were not drawn.  The lottery awards about 20 deeply discounted tickets to each sold-out performance about 2 hours before showtime.  Despite the cold, there were about 200 – 300 intrepid souls vying for the few tickets.

Crowd awaiting lottery for Book of Mormon tickets

Crowd awaiting lottery for Book of Mormon tickets

“If you think of doing something in New York City, you can be certain that at least two thousand other people have that same thought.  And of the two thousand who do, about one thousand will be standing in line waiting to do it.”
— E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller, 1967

So, of all of the things on our list of things to experience in NYC, we did not make it to a Broadway or off-Broadway play on this trip.  I guess we will have to return someday.