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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book spines on my bookshelf

Book spine art had not really crossed my consciousness until I read Jessica Pigza’s blog post about her project to select 10 favorite books spines from the New York Public Library collections for an article in a zine called Afterzine. 

Let me introduce you to Pigza, an amazingly creative woman who is also a rare books librarian at the New York Public Library.  She calls herself “The Handmade Librarian,” and she has her own blog — http://handmadelibrarian.com/.  Among the amazing things she does is facilitate Handmade Crafternoons at the library, a DIY forum for bringing together working artists, crafters, and library patrons who use the library collections for inspiration.  For example, Denyse Schmidt, one of my favorite quilters, was invited to host a free Crafternoon program last December.  How cool is that!! You can find out more about the New York Library programs at http://www.nypl.org/blog.

I’ve long had a trip to New York City on my personal “bucket” list.  And when I do finally get there, I will definitely check out a Crafternoon event at the library!