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Showing posts from 2011

The New Year in New York City, 19th Century Style: Calling on New Year's Day

Before the 1890s, when New Year's Eve celebrations became the chief means to welcome the new year, New Yorkers spend most of their time, energy, and money on the traditional custom of visiting private homes on New Year's Day.* These extravagant all-day affairs involved the well-established men of New York City, or those with social aspirations, walking about the fashionable neighborhoods to pay courtly visits to fashionable well-heeled New York women. The women - wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and their staffs - spent days preparing for the visits, fixing themselves up and laying out vast spreads of food and spirits upon tables and sidebars. It wasn't unusual for a group of men to visit sixty or seventy places from morning to night. You can imagine their condition by the end of the day. I'd hate to host the last reception.


The pressure was on. If you didn't show up at a house on New Year's Day, it meant that you must not think much of the friendship. …

The Year in Review: Walking off the Big Apple's Top New York Stories from 2011

Walking around New York City often involves bearing witness to many headline news stories. As a pedestrian journalist, I often report on the everyday life in New York City, but on occasion I like to report, if not without the occasional bias of an opinionated blogger, on the bigger stories as they unfold. The following 10 events or developments from 2011 stood out from the pack.


10. East River Ferry

Back in the Gilded Age, ferry service was a regular thing on the East River, but the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 put many of the ferries out of service. Beginning in June of 2011, the NY Waterway's East River Ferry returned to the waters, inaugurating a commuter ferry service from Manhattan to stops in Brooklyn and one in Queens. The service is a testament to the need for alternative transportation in the city.


9.De Kooning Retrospective at MoMA

Two hundred works by the influential postwar artist, almost all breathtaking in ambition and color, made this critically accl…

From the Arch and Back Again: A Nighttime Stroll to See the Holiday Lights

Running around to complete holiday preparations is often so frantic that the idea of taking an extra leisurely walk for pleasure seems somewhat ridiculous, if not inefficient. Yet, taking this additional stroll, especially in a city known to produce stress, provides the means to walk off some of the excessive pressures of the holiday season. In addition to the benefits of unwinding an overly tight psyche, a restorative walk around the neighborhood can include the pleasures of the city draped in bright holiday colors. It's a nice change from our city uniform of browns, grays and blacks.

We begin at the Washington Square Arch, our little Paris-like monument in Greenwich Village's famous park. As a neighbor, I am proud of the Arch, the holiday tree, and the views of the Empire State Building, festooned in red and green, in the distance up Fifth Avenue at 34th Street.


Taxis veer south on Fifth Avenue toward its finale in the Village at the Arch.

Shopping Ladies' Mile in the Second Gilded Age: A Self-Guided Walk and Map

Ladies' Mile, the term for the historic shopping district of New York City's Gilded Age in the late 19th century, continues as an important neighborhood for shopping. The boundaries of the designated historic district stretch roughly from W. 15th to W. 23rd Street, the area northwest of Union Square up to Madison Square. The previous post on New York City Holiday Shopping in the Gilded Age seemed to invite this obvious follow-up post and self-guided walk.


Many of the Beaux-Arts style store palaces built for New York's wealthy class of the former century are now repurposed for contemporary needs. These blocks on Broadway are particularly rich with the fancier French 19th century architectural styles, but check out the extraordinary current locations for stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond (620 Sixth Avenue) and Home Depot (40 W. 23rd St.)

New York City Holiday Shopping: Online Artifacts from the Gilded Age

(revised 2015) Several commentators in the popular press compare our own time to the Gilded Age, a term for the late 19th century decades in the United States that were marked by rapid industrialization, economic development, financial havoc, and extreme inequality between the rich and the poor. New York City was one of the most important economic and social centers of the era, a city where the wealthy industrialists built their mansions in Beaux-Arts opulence while the newly-arrived immigrant families crowded together in confined tenement structures.

Between these two groups, an expanding middle class grew with the founding of new manufacturing, commercial, and retail businesses, enterprises that would depend upon consumer spending habits. The popularization and commercialization of the Christmas holiday also rapidly grew during the 1880s and 1890s, with an emphasis in the city on the festive presentation of store windows and special marketing. Here, then, are a few documents that p…

Imagining Christmas: Washington Irving's Solitary Walk, and a Stroll from Clement Clarke Moore's Chelsea to O. Henry's Irving Place

(The following post includes material previously published on Walking Off the Big Apple, now gathered together around the virtual holiday hearth. Events noted below are updated for 2012.- TT)

Many of the ways we think of Christmas, in its secular and most popular forms - the chubby Santa and his reindeer, the newly fallen snow, the warm hearth donned with Christmas stockings, family and friends celebrating in cheer - can trace its roots to the pens of two New York native sons, Washington Irving (1783-1859) and Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), and to another popular storyteller who drifted to New York, William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), better known as O. Henry.
Washington Irving's Solitary Walk Through Christmas
"Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land,--though for me no social hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold,--yet I feel the influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy l…

So, You've Arrived by Bus: Short Walks to NYC Attractions from the Port Authority Bus Terminal

(updated 2016) Due to its proximity to many of the city's well-known attractions and transit stations, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, located just a long block west of Times Square, is also one of the most convenient points of entry to the city.

In addition to the Theater District, many popular destinations are within easy walking distance, including Bryant Park, Madison Square Garden, Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, and more.

Even MoMA or the top of the High Line are only about a mile away, making for a pleasant walk on fair weather days. With 200,000 people making use of the facility every day, the equivalent of the population of a large city, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is not surprisingly the largest bus terminal in the world.


View Arriving by Bus in NYC: Short Walks from the Port Authority in a larger map

The Port Authority Bus Terminal opened December 15, 1950, amidst New York's postwar boom, largely to consolidate the chaos of multiple bus lines congesting the …

20 New York City Books: Gift Guide 2011, Non-Fiction Edition

2011's crop of New York-centered books yields fantastic stories, uncommon vistas, and (sorry for the cliché) something for everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page while out browsing your favorite bookstore.

High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky by Joshua David and Robert Hammond. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011. 352 pages. (paper) The two citizens who founded the city's sensational elevated park tell their story.

Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture by John Hill. W. W. Norton & Company. 2011. 304 pages. (paper) It's about time we get a book that looks at the new New York architecture. Projects arranged by neighborhoods allow for self-guided adventures.

Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day with illustrations by Trudy Smoke. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2011. 295 pages. (paper) A guide to fifty trees that line New York streets. Let's be well-versed on our strolls through leafy neighborhood…

Nighttime New York Glamour: Three Blocks of 59th Street

Walking just three blocks west along E. 59th Street - from Lexington to Park to Madison to Fifth Avenue - yields the glamorous essence that many visitors expect of New York City. While a few large upscale national retailers line these blocks, stores found in other cities such as Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel, the presence of luxury European retailers and names from old New York (Argosy Bookstore is one comfortable reminder) kicks up the glamour quotient to a higher notch.

November Nocturnes: New York City at Night (Photos)

Occasionally, I joke to myself that after four years of blogging about New York, mostly in the daytime, that I should go back and do everything again but at night. The night in the city is a different world, a theatrical space lit with artificial illumination that seems the very opposite of the city's hard-nosed reality in sunlight.

Street lamps, holiday lights, incandescents, LEDs, heat burning devices, spotlights, marquee lights, display case lamps, and a myriad other lighting devices turn New York streets into a theatrical experience. These artificial lights prompt the imagination to make up stories for night's individual street scenes. The images that follow are not depictions of the famous city at night - Times Square, Broadway, the skyline, etc. - but are simply peripatetic snapshots from the more prosaic of our streets.

Please fill in the rest of the picture with your imagination.




After Shopping: Points of Interest and Dining Near the Big New York Department Stores

(updated) Shopping in New York is a major reason many visitors come to New York City, and it's not for the faint of heart. Making the rounds of several stores, especially the well-known large department stores, can seem like an athletic event and requires endurance and fortitude. After browsing or shopping, patience can become short. The feet grow tired. Muscles grow weary holding shopping bags. Companions and family begin to bicker over what to do next.

It's time for a long break. This post is designed to help shoppers at the big New York department stores find pleasant places to sit down and eat. Resting in a nearby park can also provide a healthy balance to the vigorous consumerism. Finding a barstool may also work for some.


The map at the bottom of the post includes a list of major NYC department stores and suggested places to visit and to eat and drink nearby.

Century 21 (22 Cortland Street between Broadway and Church), a large discount store in Lower Manhattan, is nea…

An Architectural Guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

The 85th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 24, 2011 beginning at 9 a.m. will follow a path from Central Park West at 77th Street down to Columbus Circle, then take a quick jog east on Central Park South before heading down 7th Avenue to 42nd Street. Here the parade takes another little jog east to 6th Avenue and then continues south to 34th Street. The finale moves one block west on 34th to Herald Square, the location of Macy's.

Manual Labor: Diego Rivera Paints New York City

The big man arrived in New York just as the town was going bust, sliding into the Great Depression, yet the city maintained its frenetic pace of building anyway. He saw everything with his big eyes, so uncannily large that his flamboyant wife suggested they allowed him as an artist to see more. The occasion of the visit by Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist, was his retrospective (1931-32) at the Museum of Modern Art, a young institution then housed in the Heckscher Building at 730 Fifth Avenue and which offered its second-only solo retrospective to Rivera, the first being to Henri Matisse.

For the MoMA exhibition, Rivera created new murals, complicated in their execution, portraying power relationships in revolutionary Mexico. After the exhibition opened, he painted three more murals inspired by New York. Excited by the experiment in the Soviet Union, Rivera trained his eye on the industrial worker and the dazzling built environment of this new city. At the same time, he was also tr…

The Follow-the-Helicopter Walk (The Clearing of Zuccotti Park)

The news this morning of the overnight eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park surprised many people, according to social media tweets and postings. For a time in the early a.m., many of the occupiers gathered at nearby Foley Square, the location of the first large community and labor march in support of the movement, and later in the morning in a lot near Canal Street and 6th Avenue. I don't believe many of the occupiers have slept at all. The situation was in flux and is still in flux. The police put on their riot gear, took it off, put it back on. Members of the media have been swept up in arrests relating to these events.

Sunday Autumn Morning in Washington Square Park, with notes about the song "Autumn in New York"

Sing it, people. You know the song. "It's autumn in New York." Walking around the city this season, in what looks to be one of the most splendid foliage seasons of recent memory, the song just can't be helped. The title line is brilliant, with its descending notes like falling autumn leaves.


Vernon Duke (1903-1969), né Vladimir Dukelsy, wrote the music and lyrics for "Autumn in New York," the jazz standard that originated in the 1934 Broadway musical Thumbs Up!. The lyrics tie the sight of autumn in New York with a wistful sense of home in the big city, "the promise of new love," and a grateful acceptance for the ways things are, even when mingled with pain. No wonder Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and a hundred of other crooners wanted to record such a song. The notes themselves were enough for the likes of Charlie Parker and the Modern Jazz Quartet.

10 Short Walks from Grand Central Terminal

(updated March 2017) Famously crowded Grand Central Terminal functions as a major crossroads for the city, hosting busy commuters as they come and go from the suburbs via the Metro-North Railroad or within the city via a few subway lines, but the terminal also happens to be a good place to launch short walks. With its south side fronting E. 42nd Street and its massive structure interrupting Park Avenue, Grand Central provides quick access to many of the city's most well-known attractions.


The New York Public Library and Bryant Park are only a couple of blocks away from the terminal, a quick jaunt on 42nd Street. And from there, Times Square is just another block or two farther west of the library, its neon shimmering in the distance. One wonders, standing near the intersection of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, how many souls have been lured away from their well-meaning library studies by the beckoning lights of the Theater District.

Grand Central Terminal: Before setting out on walks, …

Sunday Walks: SoHo, Gotham, and the New York City Marathon

The arrival of Daylight Saving Times frequently shocks the system, whether on a personal level or for the larger urban fabric. It takes some time to adjust to the change. Of the two seasonal adjustments, I prefer Fall Back over Spring Forward. Aside from gaining an extra hour, I like to think that this time of year is made for those of us in the city who get up at an unreasonably early hour to walk our dogs.


SoHo

I walked an extra hour yesterday, no doubt about it. The first morning walk was through SoHo, always unreal and pretty when few people are out on the Belgian block streets. The frivolous cast iron buildings catch the morning sunrise in just the right way, and if you venture out on a Sunday morning at first light, it can be a surreal personal landscape for one.




Gotham

The morning is not often a good time for surprises, and confronting an unfamiliar scene can be extra challenging. Later in the morning, I was on lower Broadway at the entrance of Wall Street and was startled to se…

Public Art in New York City: Fall 2011

Just as we start missing the artwork that appeared last spring and summer - like the enormous yellow teddy bear at Seagram Plaza, the roses along Park Avenue, the giant girl's head in Madison Square Park - a new crop of public artworks have been popping up over town this fall.


Peter Woytuk on Broadway
On the Broadway Malls, beginning at Columbus Circle and continuing through the Upper West Side through Harlem and Washington Heights, look for 18 whimsical bronze animal sculptures by American sculptor Peter Woytuk. It would be quite the challenging walk to take in all of them. The walk may be easy at first - the pair of elephants at Columbus Circle, this balancing bearcat at 67th St., a kiwi at 72nd St., but you'll need to get out the hiking boots to see fetching ones uptown - a couple of birds perched atop apples at 117th, three bulls at 168th St., and many more whimsical creatures along the way. Better yet, start uptown and walk back. Gotta love those big apples.
A program …

For the 1,000th Post: A List of Lessons Learned

For the 1,000th post on Walking Off the Big Apple (originally published November 2, 2011), I felt it was time to take stock of lessons learned, offer general advice that may be ignored, and suggest a few fun things to do in New York City. I mostly wish to thank readers who have helped sustain this ongoing adventure.

• Don't be afraid to venture into unfamiliar places. For backup or to lead the way, bring a dog.


• I once thought that visiting the standard sightseeing spots was a big cliché, but truly the famous places are famous for a reason. Times Square, so visually overwhelming, often feels like crossing over into another reality. The Statue of Liberty cruise is breathtaking, and so is walking around Liberty Island and taking in uncommon views of the statue.

• When taking a photo, often it's not the interesting view ahead worth capturing. Turn around and face the other direction. There it is - behind you.

• Visitors to New York are inclined to try to do too much and quickly …