7.18.2016

Pokémon Goes to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in Central Park

Last Wednesday, on a pleasantly warm afternoon with increasing clouds, I set out to explore the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, a densely wooded area in the southeast section of Central Park near the Pond. Recently opened to the public after decades of being off limits, the area once known as “the Promontory” features a waterfall, scenic views, and thick woods inhabited by many birds. I also thought I would use the occasion of visiting the wild and unfamiliar landscape as a good place to try out Pokémon Go.

The rustic gates at the entrance to Hallett Nature Sanctuary in Central Park

Let me explain. Sharing my field notes of a relatively unknown section of Central Park seemed perfectly in tune with the mission of this website - to inspire people to connect with their city through walking and to explore new places. Pokémon Go, a wildly popular app-based game that overlays the natural landscape with a chase involving virtual cartoon monsters, is also said to inspire people to connect with their city through walking and to discover new things. At one point this past week, thousands of enthusiasts of the game rushed en masse to Central Park in order to capture a rare Pokémon, an incident characterized in media outlets as a “stampede.”

Reviews and commentary have noted several positive social aspects of the game. For an opinion piece in The New York Times, editor Sarah Jeong shares her experience playing the game in San Francisco: "Pokémon Go gave me new eyes with which to look at my city. It pushed me to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and to strike up conversations with strangers." (Pokémon Go Connects Us to Our Cities and Neighbors. July 13, 2016)  For The Atlantic's CityLab, writer Laura Bliss offers that Pokémon Go "has created a new class of urban explorers, roaming busy streets and sidewalks—where there's more density, there's more game action—with phones in hand, occasionally lifting their eyes to register actual surroundings." (Pokémon Go Has Created a New Kind of Flâneur, July 12, 2016).

7.11.2016

On Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk, the Basics for a Quick Beach Escape

Rockaway, a beach community in the borough of Queens on the south shore of Long Island, may not feature the bells and whistles of Brooklyn's Coney Island, but the spot provides just the necessary elements for a satisfying summer escape from the city. On the 4th of July, while the Coney crowd cheered on Nathan's hot dog eating contestants, the Rockaway beachcombers quietly chilled out on an expansive beach. If anyone makes any noise on Rockaway, the sound is muffled, drowned out by the formidable crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

The essential beach vacation - the sand, the sea, and on some days, abundant sunshine.

Multiple train lines serve Coney Island, but you'll need the A train and its connecting shuttle to get to Rockaway. Toward the end of the ride, the train crawls along a thin strip of land in Jamaica Bay, affording uncommon views of both abundant waterfowl and low-lying jets on approach to nearby JFK Airport. The A train shuttle stops at several points along the beach. The stop at 105th Street provides easy access to the beach and boardwalk as well as proximity to the Rockaway outpost of Caracas Arepas Bar, a fun Venezuelan spot for food and drink.
       
The boardwalk at Rockaway Beach near W. 106th St.

Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012 wrecked havoc on Rockaway, leaving parts of the 5.5- mile boardwalk in ruins. One of the final sections of the newly built concrete boardwalk opened this month. In fact, much of the built environment looks brand new, as many park facilities and other structures have been rebuilt or refurbished.

5.10.2016

America's Cup in New York, on the Saturday With No Wind

On the first day of racing of the first America's Cup in New York in 85 years, the wind was calm. All were waiting for the sun to break through the clouds, and the winds to pick up in a southerly direction, so the sails could set sail and the races could begin. Delay followed delay. Yet, tens of thousands of spectators remained to watch the fast boats and their international crews sail up and down the New York Harbor and the Hudson River for races that didn't transpire. Eventually, officials got in one race, deemed officially a "substitute race" if needed after the races the following day on Sunday.

On the waterfront at Brookfield Place, the home base for Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series New York

Softbank Team Japan won the sole race on Saturday, followed by Sweden's Artemis Racing, Groupama Team France, Oracle Team USA, Land Rover BAR of Britain, and Emirates Team New Zealand. (More specifics from The Telegraph.) Identifying the sponsoring entity on the sailing yachts was much easier than trying to make out the individual national flags, given the relative size of the signage across the water.

Spectators take in America's Cup racing from the Battery Park City Esplanade.

5.05.2016

A Walk through The Met Breuer, and A Tiny Little Dwelling

Hello, Marcel Breuer building, it's good to see you again.

View of The Met Breuer from Madison Avenue

For longtime museumgoers in New York City, returning to the austere and boxy building by architect Marcel Breuer (1902–1981) on Madison Avenue at 75th Street feels like going back to a childhood home. As the Whitney Museum of American Art for a half century, the building exuded a 60s modern vibe, with circular lights in the lobby ceiling and off-kilter windows framing views of graceful apartment buildings nearby. The famed Whitney Biennials played out under its high ceilings and in the cool courtyard spaces below street level. It was all a cool place.