December 8, 2016

For the Wayfarer, Finding Your Way with the WalkNYC Kiosks

What is that tall flat silver metal object that has suddenly appeared near my subway stop? It wasn't there last week, was it?

A WalkNYC kiosk on Broadway in Inwood, facing north
It looks like that black monolith in the movie 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), the one that appears at the dawn of time prompting primates to learn how to use tools, that was "deliberately buried" in the lunar crater, and last and awesomely, at the foot of HAL-survivor Dave Bowman's bed while he's orbiting Jupiter. 

Waiting for the BxM1 bus in Inwood, a few neighbors approached the new thing timidly and studied it for signs, as maybe it would impart similar evolutionary lessons.

This monolith-shaped kiosk appears to have a walking map. And another one, slightly different, appears on the other side, too. Ah, that's for the other direction.

Indeed, the monolith is less extraterrestrial sign than signage from the city. The kiosk is one of many erected by the NYC Department of Transportation, in partnership with the MTA, as part of the WalkNYC Wayfinding System.

Each side points the way ahead, so walk around and you'll see a reoriented map pointing in the other direction. The WalkNYC markers are rather clever that way. The city has been gradually rolling out the new signs after a successful pilot project.

The kiosk shown here is placed on the SW corner of Broadway and W. 207th St, way up in northern Manhattan. The last stop of the A train is here.  

November 27, 2016

From the Atrium to the Oculus: 5 Places to Look Up in Lower Manhattan

Look up.

This stroll in Lower Manhattan involves stopping to look up at soaring places way up high, something visitors in New York City are often told to never do. In less than two hours, you will see vestiges of old New York and emblems of the new New York and how contemporary New York interprets the past.
South arcade, the Municipal Building

Municipal Building. The walk begins at the governmental center of New York City, the David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building. The Municipal Building (1909-1914) was the first skyscraper designed by the famous firm of McKim, Mead & White, and it was designed to inspire civic pride.

If arriving by subway, locate the signs for the Municipal Hall exit. On street level, take a look at the central Roman arch, inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome, and the Guastavino ceiling tiles in the south arcade of the landmark building.

Walk over to the corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets and look for the new Beekman Hotel. Along the way, be sure to take in views of City Hall and City Hall Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Woolworth Building, and several other buildings of distinction.

exterior, The Beekman
The Beekman. Originally known as the Kelly Building, the Temple Court (1883, with annex constructed 1889-1890) at the corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets was once a busy hub of activity on the city's Newspaper Row. Around the nine-story skylighted atrium, a host of real estate agents, lawyers, detectives, press agents, publishers, accounts, and others hustled for new business. The building's exterior was constructed of granite at the base and red Philadelphia brick and tan stone, with a bit of terra cotta here and there, in the upper floors. 

Like so many office buildings of the period, the Temple Court fell into decline during the middle and latter part of the 20th century. Following the attacks of 9/11, the last tenants drifted out, and the once glorious space sat empty and forlorn. Yet, the building was too much of a treasure to bring down.

Various developers looked at restoring the Temple Court, but they passed on the formidable restoration challenges and securing adequate revenue streams. In 2012, GFI Development hired Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects (GKV) to figure it out. They came up with a plan to convert the atrium building into a hotel and place the heavy machinery inside an adjacent condominium tower. This way they didn’t have to compromise the pretty stuff. (See the article on  "The Beekman" from Architectural Record for more on the design and restoration.)

November 24, 2016

November 19, 2016

10 New York City Walks for the Holidays

The holidays in New York have arrived, and you may need to walk them off. A walk does the mind and body great good, especially during this time of year. As noted in the section on Walking for Fitness, "this modest and inexpensive form of exercise can lower anxiety, improve the mood, make for better sleep, and reduce the risk of dementia."

We live in anxious times. We may want to walk away from something, or everything. Staying home feels secure. On the other hand, taking in the sights and sounds of the city by foot can broaden personal horizons or lead to the discovery of new paths. As the timeless American musical Avenue Q suggests, "There is life outside your apartment."

Thousands of New Yorkers have worked tirelessly to put on the holiday show for you. Go see it.

From the archives of Walking Off the Big Apple, consult this selection of old and new walks suitable for the season. 🎄🎄🎄

1. Herald Square to Fifth Avenue: Holiday Windows and the Pleasures of the Side Street

From Herald Square, be sure to explore the side streets of the Garment District.

"A walk from Macy's to Lord & Taylor touches on parts of the Garment District and an area of Fifth Avenue that was more fashionable in times past than in the present. For example, the building that now houses the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue was the longtime home of B. Altman's, a legendary department store." Read more.

2. A Walk on Central Park West: Making Peace with the Early Dark

A doorman stands inside the foyer of an apartment building on Central Park West.

"In addition to the health benefits of a walk, a healthy dose of architectural eye candy, like on a clear New York night, can help put some distance on the demands of a challenging day." Read more.