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Showing posts from May, 2011

Crime Edition: The Scene at 153 Franklin Street, and The Final Scene of the Major Case Squad

The Scene: 153 Franklin Street, Tribeca (Update: Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on July 1, 2011 as new doubts surfaced about the credibility of his accuser. New York Times story .) This block of Franklin Street in the Tribeca neighborhood is never this busy. But with the arrival of the former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to reside at 153 Franklin under house arrest as he awaits trial on the charges of assaulting a maid at a midtown hotel, life on the cobble-stoned block has been bustling. Many of the photographers and reporters on the press stakeout in front of this remodeled three-story residence work for press affiliates in France, and they are eager to stay on top of the news of the affair that has shaken their national politics. 153 Franklin Street, Tribeca.

Sleepwalking with Lady Macbeth: The SLEEP NO MORE Experience

Somewhere deep into Sleep No More , a site-specific immersive theatrical production at The McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, I came upon the sight of a well-dressed crooner lip-syncing Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" on the stage of a dimly lit and tattered cabaret. The atmosphere was so musty, so hot, and so itchy under the plastic plague doctor masks we were all wearing, I thought I might be forced to take off my clothes or simply pass out. At the end of the song, one made especially haunting in context of this personal mystery theater mashup of Macbeth and film noir, I made an escape through the dark space to the staircase in search of cooler air. My body vaguely remembered the location of the cold and damp room I had encountered earlier, somewhere back before the bar fight in the warehouse or that scene with the girl in the phone booth. By then, I had abandoned any attempt to keep up with a conventional storyline from Macbeth, even after the sublime slow-motion

Saturday Market Explorations: At the Waterfront in Williamsburg

Shopping for locally-grown produce or locally-made food in two boroughs is now easy on Saturdays and convenient, too, thanks to the L train. Brooklyn Flea, the borough's popular market institution, debuted its new "Smorgasburg" on the East River waterfront in Williamsburg this past Saturday, providing an immediately gratifying experience for dispensing with food prep altogether and dining on the spot. Start at Union Square in Manhattan to browse for greens, baked goods, and flowers at the bustling Greenmarket, and then take the L train at the square to the Bedford Avenue stop in Wiliamsburg for the Saturday food market and waterfront skyline. After exiting the subway, walk along North 7th St. toward the river. intersection of North 7th St. and Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Every Saturday the Smorgasburg market will feature several greenmarket vendors in addition to prepared foods by local vendors and kitchen-related items. The views of Manhattan in the park

Pictures of Walks in the Rain: Grove Street, W. 12th, and in Chelsea

Grove Street : The rain has been with us on and off throughout the past week, but it's not kept everyone home, especially those of us who don't mind a walk down a good atmospheric street. Grove Street is one of those charming and relatively short Greenwich Village streets that seems to have attracted an almost unfair share of history and attention. St. Luke's Place is another. Visitors to Greenwich Village often find their way to Grove Street, following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, or Hart Crane, among the writers who briefly lived there. Many of the buildings date from the mid-19th century and earlier, including the storybook Grove Court, a group of Greek Revival houses originally built for the working classes. On June 8, 1809, American Revolution hero Thomas Paine died in the farmhouse where Marie's Crisis bar is now located. Jazz greats, including Charlie Parker, played at Arthur's Tavern next door. I never mind taki

Toward a Pedestrian New York: The Future of a City on Two Feet

The physical health benefits of walking have been firmly established. We know that walking is a safe form of exercise that increases overall fitness levels and doesn't require special clothes or elaborate equipment. Combined with controlled eating habits, a walking routine can help with weight loss, elevate good cholesterol and lower the bad kind. The idea of interval walking - alternating high speed bursts with slower strolls - has been touted by many fitness experts as a way to rev up metabolism and burn calories. Walking fast for several blocks does help the body warm up, and walking slow for a few blocks affords the occasion to look around and appreciate the scenes of the city. The good news is that almost all walking in New York is interval walking - running to beat the stop sign at the crosswalks, racing ahead to catch a train, and slowing down to look at store windows. What's even more fascinating are the studies that show a link between walking and improved mental h

Peter Minuit Plaza: Old New Amsterdam Gets a New Public Space

Peter Minuit (1580-1638), the director-general of New Netherland who in the summer of 1626 famously purchased the verdant island of Manhattan from Native Americans, now has an intermodal transportation hub in his name next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Good for Minuit, pronounced like the French word for midnight. It's a spiffy place, this 1.3 acre Peter Minuit Plaza, with its New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion, a gift from the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York. At the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 12, a day of resplendent clear skies, officials extolled the new plaza as a particularly fine example of intergovernmental and inter-agency collaboration, in this case among the Battery Conservancy, NYC Department of Transportation, NY Parks, and the MTA. Peter Minuit Plaza. The Battery. The "plein," or outdoor public plaza, is surfaced with a handsome granite and quartz stone surface and surr

A Fine Season for Public Art: Temporary Works in New York City

(top)  Urs Fischer, UNTITLED BEAR/LAMP; Rob Pruitt, THE ANDY MONUMENT; (bottom) Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, BORDERS; Will Ryman, THE ROSES For a list of spring and summer 2012 temporary public art projects, click here . A giant yellow teddy bear with a desk lamp sits on the hallowed plaza of the Seagram Building, parked there temporarily by Christie's auction house. An equally large marble-dusted head of a child dominates the oval lawn of Madison Square Park. Having lasted through a long winter, the Roses on Park Avenue are coming near their end, just as the flowers around them are in full bloom. At the northeast corner of Union Square, a chrome statue of Andy Warhol, mercifully not four stories tall, stands on a pedestal. Over at Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Plaza near the UN, more than a dozen figures, half in aluminum and half in cast iron, engage in a stand off. Meanwhile, as artist Ai Weiwei is detained in China, his first major sculpture project is unveiled in Grand Army Plaz

Crowdsourcing the New City

Just two days into the new Festival of Ideas for the New City this past weekend (May 4-8, 2011), an ambitious multi-venue collaborative festival coordinated by the New Museum on the Bowery and designed to stimulate innovative urban ideas, the Guggenheim Museum invited cultural reporters uptown to hear about the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the institution's own contribution to crowdsourcing the new city. As the downtown New Museum festival got underway, with panel discussions and keynotes by architect Rem Koolhaas and virtual reality thinker Jaron Lanier, the BMW Guggenheim Lab introduced their idea for a new mobile laboratory, one conceptualized to investigate the urban experience by soliciting innovative ideas from the public. Festival of Ideas for the New City, Street Fair, May 7, 2011. The Bowery. The old city and the new city For the first two-year cycle of the Guggenheim Lab, a mobile truck will set up shop from August 3 to October 16, 2011 at 33 East 1st Street between First

Preservation and Its Discontents: The Word According to Rem Koolhaas

The celebrated architect, architectural theorist, and Harvard University professor Rem Koolhaas gave the keynote speech for the Festival of Ideas for the New City on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, he introduced the exhibit "Cronocaos" in a preview at the New Museum. The exhibit, by his architectural partnership OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) and his Rotterdam design studio AMO and first presented at the 2010 Venice Biennale, offers visual arguments, mostly ones of paradox and ambiguity, about the new regime of preservation. Building restrictions and regulations designed to preserve buildings or whole neighborhoods, a phenomenon that is worldwide, not only pose difficult choices for innovative designers but also may serve to corrupt memory itself by creating artificial historical environments. "If you preserve something," Koolhaas explained, "it becomes conserved and then something artificial." "Cronocaos," an exhibit at

In Madison Square Park, Jaume Plensa's ECHO

A particularly strong season of public art in New York continues this week. CIRCLE OF ANIMALS/ZODIAC HEADS by detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was unveiled yesterday at the Pulitzer Fountain near The Plaza, W. 59th St. and Fifth Avenue. Also this week, Mad. Sq. Art brings to Madison Square Park (between Fifth Ave. & Madison Ave. and from E. 23rd St. to E. 26th St.) the totemic spectacle of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa's ECHO, an impressive sleek marble-dusted girl's head situated at the center of the oval lawn of Madison Square Park. On this particularly brilliant spring day, many visitors to the park, especially young ones, played around the head like it was a Maypole. Others seemed to enjoy snapping photos of their friends with the 44-foot high sculpture. Jaume Plensa, ECHO, Madison Square Park ECHO marks the first public work in New York by the Barcelona-based artist. According to the Madison Square Park Conservancy, Plensa's sculpture is the la

In Downtown Brooklyn, the Once and Future Fulton Street Mall

The recent modernization of the Fulton Street Mall is just one part of the changing landscape of downtown Brooklyn, but when considered as a part of a larger landscape, this busy thoroughfare is attracting more interest of businesses and developers. When Danny Meyer of Shake Shack sets his eyes upon a particular location, as he has here, the first Brooklyn location for the popular burger joint, then surely there's not a better measure in contemporary New York for impending neighborhood change. Gateway to Fulton Street Mall at Adams St. The building to the left, the former home of Tony's Famous Pizzeria, will be the location for Brooklyn's first Shake Shack. The Fulton Street Mall, stretching from Adams Street near Columbus Park and Brooklyn Borough Hall on the west to Flatbush Avenue on the east, has long been one of the top commercial destinations in New York, but several new residential developments have sprung up nearby, spurred in many cases by tax credits and ot

A Walk from City Hall to the Seaport

This past Sunday, I walked to the New Amsterdam Market, the outdoor market of local food purveyors that occupies the space outside the old Fulton Fish Market, in order to pick up a few items for dinner and to look at whatever caught my fancy along the way. From City Hall through Broadway-Nassau to the East River, the narrow streets in this old section of the city seem to guard their old secrets. The new giant towers down here, including Frank Gehry's 8 Spruce Street and the rising 1 WTC, may push them into greater obscurity, literally and figuratively. After starting my walk at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall subway station, I paused for a minute to watch dancers outside City Hall Park. In the background, I took in the recent renovations of the ornate Beaux Arts building that was originally the Hall of Records (1899-1907), now known as Surrogate's Court (31 Chambers). Continuing the walk through the Broadway-Nassau area, Nassau Street looked particularly antiquarian this p

Photo: One World Trade Center Rises, May 1, 2011

Image by Walking Off the Big Apple from 12:52 p.m. May 1, 2011. In the early afternoon on Sunday, I was walking to the South Street Seaport along Fulton Street when I turned around and saw the massive One World Trade Center, or 1 WTC as it's often known, under construction. I was surprised to see how wide and tall it looked from this perspective and how the unfinished building, having reached about 67 floors, dominated the street. At 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the United States. It is scheduled to be completed in 2013. Late on Sunday evening, President Obama announced that a small team of US forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who directed the 911 attacks, in his heavily fortified compound in Pakistan. Following the stunning announcement, over a thousand people gathered last night near the wide footprint of this building at Vesey St. and Church St. No one should ever underestimate the strength of the people of New York