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Showing posts from June, 2012

It's a Bird! No, It's a Plane! A Walk in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

For anyone interested in getting away from city streets for a bit, or anyone hooked on watching bird cams at home and then getting the itch to see a few birds in person, or for those who may enjoy uncommon views of the city skyline from a distance, a trip to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is in order. A major bird sanctuary in the Northeast, the wildlife refuge on Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, supports a variety of bird habitats, including a salt marsh and fresh water ponds. The area is home to a variety of small animals, butterflies, and bugs. The latter include mosquitos and, according to a park ranger on a recent visit, a type of tick known as the Lone Star. So, when venturing out to Broad Channel to look at birds, please be sure to bring along a can of insect repellent, especially if you're concerned about Texas-size biting bugs.


While spring and fall are better seasons in general to have a look at birds in migration, the summer m…

An Early Evening Walk on the High Line

Long summer days provide the occasion for an after-dinner stroll, and few places in Manhattan can beat the lofty High Line for a sunset walk. Yesterday, the passage of a couple of storms - one seemingly out of the blue - left a refreshing breeze in the air and the promise of a glorious sunset. Walking the length of the High Line from south to north, starting around 7:45 p.m. at Gansevoort Street and ending at W. 30th around 8:38 p.m., provided all that was necessary for a spectacular picture show of "the golden hour."




Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from June 25, 2012.

New York as Outdoor Museum: A Self-Guided Public Art Walk in Lower Manhattan

One inspiring way to explore Lower Manhattan would be to take a long walk that highlights public art or other artwork accessible to the public. By connecting the dots, or rather, the geographical points of these sculptures and installations, New York becomes a big free outdoor museum. 

With its tapered narrow geography between the two rivers, Lower Manhattan is not only a convenient area to walk, but it's rich in public art. With an emphasis on modern and contemporary art, the walk can also provoke a delightful dialogue between art and architecture, or between sea and shore. In a real sense, the most famous public art in NYC - the Statue of Liberty - can be easily viewed from the shoreline.

This suggested self-guided walk (map below, revised and expanded from an earlier post) begins in City Hall Park. The park frequently serves as a site for temporary projects of the Public Art Fund. (Currently, a group exhibition there titled "Common Ground" explores individual responses…

The Long, Wide Beach at Rockaway

Compared to Coney Island's 2.5 mile boardwalk, the walk at Rockaway stretches a long 5.5 miles. Because of the size of this beach community in Queens on the south shore of Long Island, visitors on a day trip to Rockaway may not have enough time to experience all of its history and attractions except for a relatively small stretch of the beach. One such area of Rockaway worth exploring is the section between Beach 116th and Beach 105th Street. And by all means, take the beach towel and get your feet wet.


While Coney Island attracted the attention of visitors in the 19th century for its exceptional blue waters, early tourism guides to Rockaway Beach commented on the excellence of its beaches and opportunities for "surf-bathing." (See Illustrated hand-book of American summer resorts, Volume 21. D. Appleton, 1896)

Certainly in comparison to Coney Island, the waves are bigger here, and contemporary visitors to Rockaway may even encounter the odd sight of people carrying surfboa…

Fifth Avenue and the High Road to Taos: Mabel Dodge, Georgia O'Keeffe, and New York City

Revised from a series of posts about Mabel Dodge and Georgia O'Keeffe's intertwined lives in New York and New Mexico, originally published on this site in 2008. 
I. Introduction
Mabel Dodge (1879-1962), the wealthy heiress at 23 Fifth Avenue, and Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986), the famous artist whose first exhibit was held at 291 Fifth Avenue, could have lived out the rest of their lives in New York. In 1917 Dodge married painter Maurice Sterne and had her eye on a new apartment at 23 Washington Square North. In April of 1917 Alfred Stieglitz exhibited a series of O'Keeffe's watercolors at his 291 gallery, and soon the two would be living together. They married in 1924.
After a series of nervous ailments, Dodge decided her future was in the west. In December 1917 she moved to Taos, New Mexico with her husband and their friend, Elsie Clews Parsons. Twelve years later, in the summer of 1929, O'Keeffe traveled to New Mexico with her friend, Beck Strand. The two staye…

A Walk in Battery Park City's North End, and a New Arcade

Battery Park City, stretching along the shore on the city's far southwestern side, may be tidy, clean, slick, and contemporary, but as a whole, the city built on landfill is not a warm and fuzzy place. Rather isolated from the rest of the New York universe by the wide West Street, the uniform residential towers and landscaped gardens of Battery Park City present themselves as a sort of quiet corporate suburb. While the views along the river here open up thrilling vistas, there's not a ton of excitement on the city's streets. So when popular restaurants choose to locate here, a major hotel opens with a collection of stunning contemporary art, and a fetching arcade attracts pedestrians and the illusion of street life, it's worth a walk to check it out.


This suggested self-guided walk, the sort always improved by personal variations, begins near the E train stop on Church Street, continues west along the makeshift passageway of Vesey Street next to the World Trade Center …

In Focus: The Metropolitan Life Tower

(updated 2016 - The hotel in the tower, named The New York EDITION, opened in 2015. See hotel website for more information. )

In October of 2011, Marriott Hotels announced a deal to buy New York's landmark Metropolitan Life Tower building at Madison Square and convert the famous tower, built in 1909, into a hotel. In partnership with hotelier Ian Schrager, the lofty lodging would be branded as part of the company's boutique Edition line. The renovations are scheduled to start this year.*


With its large bell tower, gold cupola, tall arcade, scalloped arched windows, sloping roof, and a clock with faces on each side, the 52-story Metropolitan Life Tower or simply, Met Life Tower, located at Madison and East 23rd Street, is an easily recognizable feature of the New York skyline. The architecture firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons modeled the building on the Campanile of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, though they made the New York tower twice as tall as its Venetian counterpart. …

Dining Near Washington Square Park, Revised and Updated

(updated May 2013 to note closed restaurants) Visitors to Greenwich Village may enjoy several of various food options around Washington Square Park. A few choice spots have weathered the recession and changing dining trends, while newcomers to the Village keep trying to hit that magic formula of restaurant endurance. Dining choices range from high dining, the kind requiring fancy dress and credit cards, to informal grab-and-go bites for sitting outside in the park.

A few highlights and favorites -



Otto Restaurant Enoteca Pizza: Washington Square resident Mario Batali has given the neighbors excellent options for informal and high dining including this popular pizza place in the landmark One Fifth Avenue building. Grab friends to share many varieties of reliably good pizza.



• On the northwest corner of the park, North Square at the Washington Square Hotel provides a good place for taking visitors, and the restaurant's Sunday jazz brunch is very popular. In addition to afternoon t…

A Festival Weekend in NYC: Photos from the Celebrations

I never made it to the Puerto Rican Day Parade today, one of the largest annual parades in the city. I did catch some of the Festival of India celebration in Washington Square Park yesterday, a well-attended celebration centered on Hare Krishna. Today, I wandered through a block party on W. 18th between Fifth and 6th Avenues that was sponsored by the Adorama store, known for its photo supplies, and I took several closeup photos of the animals in the petting zoo. In the middle of the afternoon, I caught a whiff of the Big Apple BBQ festivities in Madison Square Park. This summer weekend's events brought many New Yorkers to the streets and parks. Only the Big Apple BBQ event offered beef and pork.



From Washington Square Park to the Hudson River, A Walk to See the Stormy Sky

On Wednesday evening, as with recent days, an unstable air mass high above our skyscrapers brought scattered thunderstorms to New York City. As the storm clouds gathered and the skies turned dramatic, the Twitter feed of New York locals started to produce a wondrous array of pop-up camera pictures of the early evening sky. Big puffy clouds, dark clouds, luminous clouds - hundreds of New Yorkers pulled out their phones to take pictures of the clouds from their location and upload them for all to see. Impressed with the collective visualizations of the breaking weather conditions - and New Yorkers are getting good at this - I decided to head outdoors and westward to the Hudson River to see this impressive sky for myself.


Garbo Walks: A Pre-War Legend in Post-War New York

In October of 1953, two years after becoming a U.S. citizen, film legend Greta Garbo (1905-1990) bought a spacious apartment in The Campanile at 450 E. 52nd St. A building of understated elegance by today's standards, the apartment building served the needs of discreet older New York families as well as other movie stars. The building, which takes its architectural inspiration from the counterpart in Venice's Piazza San Marco, sits at the far quiet south end of the street and with views overlooking the East River. Garbo lived on the fifth floor with a view of the river and the Queensboro Bridge, and she decorated her seven rooms with attractive antiques and art.

From 1953 until her death on April 15, 1990, she spent much of her time walking the nearby streets. She typically took a walk in the morning and then another in the afternoon after lunch. Sometimes a friend would accompany her, and at other times she was content to stroll alone. Her biographers describe several of her…

Episodes from a Natural and Social History of Coney Island: Primary Sources from the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, with Historical and Contemporary Images

Before the amusement parks and the attractions, people came to Coney Island for the blueness of its seas. -



"The ocean near Key West is of a milky hue owing to the great banks of white coral at the sea bottom. Yet none of these colors equal the blue of the sea at Coney Island on a rare day in June. Toward nights its tints grow darker and more blue, and the horizon in the light of the setting sun seems just a line of black beaded with burning gold. " - The tourists companion and guide to Coney Island, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach… edited by J. Perkins Tracy. New York: Austin Publishing Company, 1887. p. 7

Walking on Sand and Boardwalk: Exercises for Coney Island

Coney Island, New York's famous beach and boardwalk destination in southern Brooklyn, brings many things to mind - the old days of Luna Park at night, the photographs of wall-to-wall people crowding the beaches, long summer days riding the Cyclone, and the overindulgence of sand, sun, and Nathan's hot dogs. While Coney Island's rich history may be lost in many physical reminders, the Coney Island of the mind, to reference the title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 1958 collection of poems, remains strong and personal for many New Yorkers.



During a visit this past week, a sunny day when the beach and the boardwalk were relatively not crowded, some of those historic and personal images of Coney Island veered in and out of my consciousness. Yet, the strong sun had the effect of washing out the remembered mind pictures of Coney Island only to leave its geographical elementals - a peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean with a long deep beach that stretches out for nearly three miles und…