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Showing posts from June, 2010

A Quiet Morning Spot in the West Village

It's easy to walk straight by James J. Walker Park in the West Village. On the west side fronting Hudson St., a large city ball field commands attention. On the east, the Tony Dapolito Recreational Center and the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library take up much of the real estate on 7th Avenue between Clarkson Street and Leroy Street. One the north side, this special block of Leroy Street is renamed St. Luke's Place, an elegant row of townhouses, nearly all with a celebrity past. One of the oddest of the most elegant homes, only odd because of the runaway greenery overwhelming the entrance, once belonged to the Jazz Age Mayor of New York, the young and handsome playboy reformer, Jimmy Walker, or "Beau James," for whom the park is named. Walking casually along St. Luke's Place, the tendency is to look at the pretty townhouse row and not at the gates to the park across the street.


Even a casual glance through the park's tall grated iron fence towa…

At Sotheby's for the Auction of the Polaroid Collection

Over the past several days, visitors have been filing into Sotheby's New York on York Avenue and 72nd Street to look over the collection of stunning photographs of the former Polaroid Company, over a thousand images from the likes of Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, William Wegman, Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Robert Frank, David Hockney, and others, artworks forced into auction by a bankruptcy judge in Minnesota so the company could pay its creditors. Visiting the works on display provided a rare chance to see some of the finest photographic work of the twentieth century and often at a rare scale, with the knowledge that as soon as the final auction gavel comes down later today, these works will likely be dispersed to far-flung locales. Many will disappear into private hands, and we may never see them again.

The sale at Sotheby's, an unusual bankruptcy proceeding for the auction house, has not been without controversy. Several artists and photo historians have expressed alarm over …

A Kind of Blue: A Walk Through Woodlawn Among the Blue Hydrangeas

Certain species of hydrangea feature opulent and puffy flowerheads, some in pink and some in blue, depending on the pH of the soil, but the ones in the blue-violet spectrum, seen in many city gardens in the summertime, look uncommonly unreal and ethereal. In context, the blue hydrangea that dot the eternal city of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx seem to assume a celestial appearance under the varied canopy of a thousand different trees, ice blue floral memorials for New Yorkers alive to memory. Describing the exact shade of these flowers goes beyond my descriptive abilities and understanding, but it is a kind of blue, a color more common in landscape paintings than in real life. 

King's handbook of New York city, published in 1892, notes that the then-modern Woodlawn Cemetery "has become the fashionable burial-place of New York millionaire families," surpassing "every other place of burial in the country in the number, the beauty and the value of these imposing house…

Strolling Notes: The World Cup in New York, the Situationist Dog, and a Footbridge in Tribeca

• The World Cup in New York: An early day walk around New York neighborhoods these days brings the added surprise of seeing patrons in bars at 7:30 in the morning and hearing the not-so-subtle sounds of blowing musical instruments. Not every city bar has opened its doors for the first match of the day, but several venues have enthusiastically welcomed the early morning fans of the sport, including their matracas and vuvuzelas.

By the afternoon, many more bars and restaurants have opened, with fans sometimes spilling out into the street. Some venues cater to a particular team and feature special food and drink for the festivities. Outside of the bars, World Cup fever is in the air, with friends and acquaintances, especially those who have immigrated from countries represented in the competition, chatting wherever convenient to share news and friendly bantering.

It's hard to keep up with the expanding list of places to watch the World Cup in New York, but here are a few links to co…

A Walking Guide to Sixth Avenue / The Avenue of the Americas

(revised 2015) To prepare for a post on the Avenue of the Americas, the official name for Sixth Avenue, I walked the street's entire distance of 3.6 miles, from Central Park to Tribeca, in order to fully grasp Mayor La Guardia's original vision in renaming the avenue. While the remnants of the Pan-American avenue now seem somewhat tattered and confined to the extreme southern and northern ends, I still highly recommend a stroll down the avenue for a host of other reasons.

The walk, in fact, is more like a hike after about three miles, requiring frequent stops and water, but the effort is worth it for those trying to walk off all sorts of problems and over-indulgences. The serious reason, however, rests in the usefulness of Sixth Avenue for studying the historical variations of New York commercial life as represented in its architecture and places of business. Walking all the way from the corporate blocks at the north end toward the south - through Midtown, Ladies Mile, Chelse…

The Rain on Prince Street

Some posts on this site advise people what to do when it rains in New York - things like go to a museum or visit Grand Central Terminal, etc., but actually, everyday life in New York can be lovely when it rains. Unlike days with sunny weather, when the sun bleaches out colors, a rainy day accentuates the bright colors of painted buildings, the yellowness of the yellow taxis, and the colors of those funny objects called umbrellas. (It's a mystery to me how New Yorkers can magically produce umbrellas at a moment's notice.) A walk in a busy neighborhood like Soho can offer a chance to look at the rain on the shiny street or visit an unfamiliar store or escape into a cafe. Walking along Prince Street today seemed to afford those kinds of pleasures.

A Beginner's Guide to Governors Island

Updated for the 2012 season

• Governors Island in New York Harbor, now open to the public on a limited basis, was a military base for 200 years. The Coast Guard closed the island in 1996, and in 2003 the federal government sold much of the island to New York. The National Park Service continues to manage the two historic forts on the island. 

• 2012: Open every Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday Monday through September 30.

• See Graphic Design: Now in Production, an exhibition of contemporary design in all media produced and curated by Cooper-Hewitt with the Walker Art Center through September 3, 2012. Open weekends 10 am-6 pm.

• The views from the island are stunning, and a trip affords a quick getaway from the urban canyons. 

• Visitors to Governors Island can walk the 2.2. promenade around the whole island and enjoy access to the northern part. The southern part is awaiting development.

• The Water Taxi Beach serves food and affordable drinks, including a few tasty beers on tap. Dri…

Studies in Blue and Green: The Hudson River Park, South of Houston, Morning

For our morning walk, my dog forcefully pulled me toward the new Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park, as if she really needed me to check it out.

On our semi-regular walks, we usually wander toward the pier in the Greenwich Village section near Christopher Street, so I hadn't realized that this stretch of the park to the south was open for our recreational pleasure.

This newly renovated section sports some nice features —

a well-landscaped nature boardwalk,

What's Left of the Avenue of the Americas?

(updated 2015) The change of name from Sixth Avenue to "Avenue of the Americas" became official October 2, 1945 when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia signed a bill passed by City Council. According to an article in The New York Times ("6th Avenue's Name Gone With the Wind," New York Times, Oct. 3, 1945), a few voiced opposition to the change, including the Citizen Union, arguing that the street contained so many "eyesores" that the new name would be "scarcely an honor to our sister nations."

Others speaking on record at City Council included Mrs. Viola Warrin, who thought the new avenue name was "an awful mouthful;" Albert W. Ransom, who shared his observation that "Avenue of the Americas" was supported "by nobody 'but a group of people seeking propaganda';" and various Greenwich Village activists, including Marion Tanner (the aunt of writer Patrick Dennis, more on this website) of the Greenwich Village Associ…