While reviewing my walks in 2008, I decided to identify those places in New York I most enjoyed exploring or where I looked forward to returning many times. Now that I've compiled such as list, I now see that the natural world and the built environment hold an equal amount of fascination for me. I'm somewhat surprised by this, thinking that Nature, given its rarity in our urban canyons, may win hands down. Indeed, the top place on this list (although there's no order of importance) is the northern part of Central Park, the wildest part of Olmsted and Vaux's carefully designed landscape.
FAVORITE PLACES 2008
• The northern part of Central Park: I've gotten lost in the city before, but it's not quite the same as getting lost in Central Park. After wandering around small waterfalls and trying to follow faint trails in the park above 101st Street, I began to feel like I was hiking in a major national park. I finally emerged in a clearing near the Lasker Rink. Later, I looked at a map and discovered I had been lost in a section called the North Woods.
• The Renwick Ruins (Smallpox Hospital): Visiting Roosevelt Island may be the highlight of the year, if only because I enjoy the tram ride. Still, there's nothing quite like visiting the decayed Gothic beauty of the Smallpox hospital on the south end of the island.
• The lobby of The Daily News Building: Each time I find myself on 42nd Street and on the east side, I pop into the lobby of the Daily News building to admire the revolving planet. I've started to visit to News building as an homage to the struggling newspaper industry. The 15,000 layoffs in the news industry in 2008 surely diminishes our civic culture. I love reading newspapers, and as a blogger, I feel guilty about the whole thing. See the website Paper Cuts for map and details.
• Brooklyn Academy of Music: Attending performances at the BAM Harvey Theater, like the memorable Scottish play, I became enamored of the way BAM chose to renovate and update the elements necessary for theatrical production but left the walls of this former movie palace in a state of graceful decay.
• The Roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Open in the summer months, the roof of the Met is a great place to kick back and enjoy the special installation of artworks (this past year, Jeff Koons), the treetops of Central Park, people-watching, and cocktails.
• New Museum of Contemporary Art: I was glad I joined the New Museum as a member last year, because I've returned several times for exhibitions. The curators do a nice job with the galleries, especially the Elizabeth Peyton retrospective, and I've become fond of the staircase that connects two of the floors. They need to work on the New Food in the cafe, however. Last time I was there, I had to throw away a half-frozen cupcake. Old Food.
More of my favorite places of 2008, with links to posts:
• Salmagundi Club: Old-school art club in a beautiful Fifth Avenue space.
• Tudor City: Intriguing city-unto-itself in Midtown East.
• The Guggenheim Museum (now renovated): FLW's wonderful atrium and winding staircase.
• NYPL Seward Park branch and Seward Park: Stately building and park in the Lower East Side.
(top) Central Park, north, near 100th street; (middle) The Met roof in summer; (bottom) NYPL, Seward Park Branch.
Coming next: Favorite streets for walking off the Big Apple.