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Showing posts from February, 2011

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 50 - 56

The week began and ended with variable winds, blowing so strong that I felt myself trapped within endless whirlwind loops walking through SoHo and NoHo. It snowed Monday, and while many of us would rather press on with springtime, the snow itself was on the pretty side. One clear and calm day I escaped the neighborhood vortex and walked downtown to Bowling Green. After Monday's snow it seemed  the veil of winter was beginning to lift a little, mercifully, finally. Soon, the long winter will blow itself away.



Buildings to Know in NoHo: An Illustrated Self-Guided Tour and Map

(revised 2013) NoHo, the nickname for the neighborhood in New York that generally sits north of Houston and sprawls up Broadway and Lafayette to Astor Place, serves as home to some of the city's most flamboyant architecture. Most of the exuberance comes by way of the existing commercial buildings from the 1880s and 1890s, structures with rich ornamentation and fanciful figures designed to show off the companies that built them. In even earlier days, the 1820s, Lafayette and Astor Place briefly served as one of the city's most fashionable districts for Old Money. While the Bowery is shaping up as one of New York's primary thoroughfares for experimental architecture, with the boldest yet to come, a new look at the old and new architecture of neighboring NoHo yields some pretty wild stuff. All that is required to appreciate this area's rich architectural heritage is to look up.


A gaze upward reveals several gems of NoHo's visual culture - the two serene classically-dr…

For Presidents Day: U.S. Presidents in New York City

In celebration of Presidents Day, enjoy this compilation of presidential-themed posts previously published on Walking Off the Big Apple.

The President on Sullivan Street
Jul 29, 2010
I've become so familiar with President Barack Obama's frequent trips to my neighborhood, such as his appearance last night at a fundraiser at Vogue Editor Anna Wintour's townhouse on Sullivan Street, that I know the routine by heart. ...

The Reagan-Bush-Gorbachev Meeting on Governors Island: A Debriefing and a Walk
Aug 15, 2010
On December 7, 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George HW Bush met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, then the headquarters for the Coast Guard. Documentation of the events that day remained secret ...

Chester A. Arthur's Neighborhood, and A Hint of Vindaloo Masala
Jan 14, 2009
President Hayes asked him to leave his post. Later, as President, he ran a clean administration, signing the Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, and…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 43 - 49

The week was a little cold, a little breezy, a little too work-oriented, but then it warmed up for a day or two, and the city was a little exciting again. Friday was beautiful. Today, we're back to blustery conditions, and it's uncomfortable to be outside. But the past week of walks did bring some excitement. Dogs were involved. I visited Bellevue Hospital. The snow melted.

On February 12, Lincoln's birthday, the color red began to announce itself, especially at night in the East Village. Nothin' but heartbreak.


A pleasant day for a visit to Bellevue Hospital and a stroll along the East River. Waterside Plaza has nice  views of the river, but it's a little out of the way. Getting there involves walking on a pedestrian bridge over the FDR.


Recalling New York's Recent Past in Google Street View Images

It's easy to get lost in Google Street View, the images made by Google's roving spinning cameras. The company's pictures, while sometimes criticized for their invasion of privacy, make a strange but useful record of the recent past. They're strange because of the POV, captured from atop a moving truck, and therefore, from the slightly high and unusual vantage point in the middle of the street. No one normally experiences the street this way, unless they're riding on the top of a truck or on a hayride. The Street View images are nevertheless useful as a compendium of images of the recent past. What's lost today may still exist in the virtual reality of Google's cameras. Here's just a small sample of what I found in Google Street View from a virtual walk this morning.


With the incessant concerns in the city over the status and future of historic landmarks, it's time to check in again with the current Google Street View maps and see if we can capture i…

A Walk to Bellevue and Beyond

(updated 2015) The next time any of you New Yorkers, yes I 'm talking to you, have visitors from out of town and are planning to show your guests the famous sights of the city, tell them that you've planned something a little different than the usual trips to Times Square, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center. Surprise them by suggesting a walk to the Bellevue Hospital Center. Yes, Bellevue, the hospital in Kips Bay.

They may look at you a little strange, knowing from old movies and television that Bellevue tends to serve as a code word for psychiatric care, but truly, walking to Bellevue on First Avenue and 27th Street and seeing the sights in and around the oldest public hospital in the United States is a great treat. You may want to hold off telling them that the trip will also include a walk over and under FDR Drive and a windy river walk on the East River to see massively-scaled modernist architecture and a ferry landing.








This suggested walk begins and ends in the curry-s…

Good Dogs: Backstage Portraits from the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

They're all good dogs. And while they might have long fancier names as they step out into the rings of Madison Square Garden for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (February 14-15, 2011), backstage - while getting groomed, taking a nap, or licking a fan's hand  - they're just your friendly dog with a normal good dog name like Baron, Blitzen, Woody, Kallie, or Hunter. So many sweet faces! While out on the show floor, the judges will evaluate the dogs on many characteristic ideals of their breed, but hanging out in the "benching area," it's their faces that will inspire the dog love. 


The 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show concludes tonight at at Madison Square Garden. The proceedings will be televised live on the USA Network. 8/7C.
Images from Madison Square Garden by Walking Off the Big Apple from February 15, 2011, taken with the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone 4. Walking Off the Big Apple is the proud owner of a beautiful mixed breed dog of rottweiler-ch…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 36 - 42

The week alternated constantly between the exciting and the mundane - from watching the uprising in Egypt on social media and TV to picking up milk at the grocery store. This week's walks also veered from the sublime to the tedious, but none of them came close to cheering on those who braved walking to Tahrir Square.


In New York, we are now entering the late winter where an occasional pleasant day will interrupt the exhausting winter.


Walking in the evenings afforded glimpses of the city at work. In SoHo and Tribeca, the art world still thrives in converted factories and lofts.

Lower Manhattan: The Changing Skyline and the Challenges of Community

The skyline of Lower Manhattan is changing. A 76-story shimmering skyscraper at 8 Spruce Street, the tallest residential building in the city, is nearly finished. The skyscraper known as One World Trade Center, or 1 WTC (formerly Freedom Tower), rises a little more each week, gradually asserting itself into the new visual consciousness of the city. It's clear that a reconfigured built environment is emerging downtown, but what is unclear is how the new buildings, imposed on the old Dutch city and built in the aftermath of September 11, will affect a nascent sense of neighborhood in this part of town.

8 Spruce Street Revisited

In yesterday's New York Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff offered a glowing review of Frank Gehry's design for 8 Spruce Street, calling the building "the finest skyscraper to rise in New York since Eero Saarinen’s CBS building went up 46 years ago." Writing about the building this past October, I similarly praised the building:…

The New York of By Nightfall: A Novel by Michael Cunningham

For fans of his popular novel, The Hours (2000) and subsequent works, a new novel by Michael Cunningham titled By Nightfall: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 256 pages, 2010) has been anxiously awaited. The reviews of the novel, released this past fall, have been mostly positive. Ron Charles of The Washington Post (October 6, 2010) credits Cunningham for mastering the fashionable mid-life crisis novel. For her review in The New York Times ("Sibling Rivalry," October 1, 2010), Jeanette Winterson praises his prose -  “Cunningham writes so well, and with such an economy of language, that he can call up the poet’s exact match." In addition to the merits of the story and prose, New Yorkers may want to check out the novel for its portrayal of the contemporary city. References to specific places abound. For those curious about characters that dine at Prune, live in an art-filled loft on Mercer Street, walk through the galleries of the Met to see Damien Hirst's shark, or…

A Thaw, However Briefly: The View from the High Line

Many New Yorkers, having not seen their shadows in over a month, left their respective burrows/boroughs yesterday to investigate the phenomenon of the sun. More than that, it was the rare climatological phenomenon of the appearance of the sun along with the emergence of temperatures above freezing. Instead of watching the snow pile up, as has been the custom for two months, the snow actually started to melt away.



New Yorkers who live in Chelsea and the Village, together with the far-flung residents and visitors who flock to these areas for the mandatory meal known as brunch, gravitated to the High Line. This high perch afforded excellent views of the melting snow, the skaters at The Standard Hotel's small rink, the skylines of Jersey City and midtown Manhattan, and importantly, a big blue and party cloudy sky. Lounging in their winter coats on the wooden park recliners, the assembled group looked like well-dressed refugees on an icy voyage to an uncertain port o'call.



Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 29 - 35

This post is the fifth in a ten-part series titled Pictures from 70 Days of Walks. To recap: The idea is to take a walk of 2.5 miles every day for ten weeks, observe the sights along the walk, take a picture, and maintain a photo diary of the walks. Why? Since the typical New Year's resolution to get in shape often fails, usually within the first weeks of January, the resolution may take something else to make it interesting. Exploring the neighborhood and city makes the plan potentially more exciting.


Let the spirit of adventure take charge. Sometimes, just getting out of the house or apartment and into fresh air may be enough. The fitness goals will take care of themselves. Modest weight loss should ensue, provided the walks are accompanied by some concerted effort to control pastry and/or beer consumption. The sorry truth is that walking doesn't burn as many calories as cross-country skiing or running, so it's necessary to reign in the baguettes.


Even if the weight or f…

Coping With the New Arctic Normal: Lessons from the Central Park Zoo

(Updates: Sadly, Ida the polar bear was euthanized in early June 2011 after developing liver cancer. Gus, known for his neurotic swimming habits, was euthanized in August 2013 after developing an inoperable tumor in the thyroid area.)

Like an endless Groundhog Day of winter snow, sleet, and ice, New Yorkers may finally be settling into patterns of adaptation to our polar climate. The novelty of the deep snow has long worn off, the winter wonderland seems a little less wonderful, and life goes on. Boots are pulled on, parkas zipped up high, and it's time to depart the igloo for the office. Perhaps now is an opportune time to check in on our most acclimatized Manhattan neighbors and pick up coping tips for life during the wintery blasts.

The Central Park Zoo, while a varied artificial environment within the larger artificial landscape known as Central Park, nevertheless provides a good home for polar bears, snow leopards, red pandas and other creatures, especially if nature helps ou…