Skip to main content

In Light of the Holidays, a Walk Downtown in Darkness and in Art

I hadn't walked downtown since the hurricane, but I often thought about setting out for Lower Manhattan since the storm blew through the city. I wanted to see what it looked like, having read the reports. Unwilling to play the role of disaster tourist, I suppressed my desire to witness the effects of the storm in this part of the city. After all, people had to do hard work there in the cleanup effort, and I thought that if I didn't volunteer myself, I should stay put.

Yet, I am a journalist, after a fashion, at least in the spirit of the etymological origins of the term in French - the word for "day" is "jour" - and though I don't write or take pictures every day (or, at least publish them), I consider myself a diarist of everyday things. The French call this "la vie quotidienne." I also believe in the power of witnessing - to see, to give an account of events first hand.

walking south on West Broadway with One World Trade Center in the distance

Last evening, as I leaned out my balcony and gazed downtown, I saw the towering figure of One World Trade Center in the distant mist. The building was fixed up in holiday lights, and low clouds obscured the top floors. The night was mild and humid, somewhat reminiscent of the time of the storm, and a light fog cast the city in a somewhat flattering haze. I suppose some people would find this weather rather dreary.

Tribeca Tavern, W. Broadway near Beach Street.

But I like to walk to improve my mood, and while I am not altogether lacking in melancholy, I tend to be the sort of person who looks outward rather than inward and looks for beauty of some sort in the external world. As a young girl, I was raised to love writing and art. As an adult, I still carry this temperament inside me, and therefore I look at New York City as writings on blank paper and paintings on stretched canvasses. When I do think in an inward fashion, it's often to reflect about what other writers and artists have made of the world and how their visions have influenced my own wanderings and imagination. Sometimes, this gets me in trouble with people in everyday situations.


Jeff Koons. Balloon Flower (Red) in fountain. 7 World Trade Center. W. Broadway, Greenwich St., and Vesey St

Looking at the lights of One World Trade Center in the distance, I impulsively wanted to get closer, like when a visitor at a museum walks up to a painting to look at the artist's brush work. So, I set about on my long-awaited walk downtown, first via West Broadway, a street that runs in a straight line from Washington Square Park, near where I live, south to the World Trade Center. I walked steadily, with determination, through the South Village and Soho and Tribeca. I saw stores and banks and corporate offices decorated in the lights of the season, and I saw people cozy up in restaurants and bars.

One World Trade Center. Liberty Street and Church Street.

Arriving at the base of One World Trade Center, a spectacle with its highest floors in the fog, I felt the need to push on - through Zuccotti Park, pretty in lights but lonesome without occupiers, and past the sterile corporate buildings. I arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Near there, I saw the busy work of recovery. All up and down Water Street and nearby streets, I saw disaster recovery trucks and utility company vehicles and great industrial tubes still pumping out water. I saw many more machines than people operating them. The air was filled with the sound of generator motors. As a rider of the 1 train, I knew the South Ferry station was still closed, but even with my mind full of fiction and art, it helped to actually see it.

Zuccotti Park

One Battery Park Plaza

Staten Island Ferry Terminal, 4 South Street

Disaster recovery vehicle on Water Street

Whitehall St. and South Ferry Station

I had one more thing to see - the Battery, the farthest I could go on foot in Lower Manhattan. It wasn't perhaps in my best interest to walk through Battery Park on a deserted Monday night in the fog, but in my art-addled mind, the sight of the Statue of Liberty, one of the finest public artworks in the world, made a fine subject for a James Whistler-esque nocturne.

The Battery, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance

The return home took me up Broad Street, where a handsome holiday tree sits outside the Stock Exchange, and up narrow Nassau Street and over to Broadway near St. Paul's.

Broad Street, outside the Stock Exchange.

Nassau Street

St. Paul's Chapel, 209 Broadway

Though beginning to tire on the walk home - this roundtrip walk shockingly totaled five miles - I couldn't resist venturing into the gaslit City Hall Park. While beautiful and romantic sights often fail to materialize for people inclined to be easily disappointed, apparitions of beauty almost always appear to those who imagine them anyway.

City Hall Park, 131 Duane Street
     

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Monday, December 10, 8:50 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. Made with the iPhone camera. The square ones are made with the Instagram app.  A map showing the route.
Related post: After Being Tossed About, the City Dresses Up Again (November 24, 2012)

Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk. One such essay, " Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer , Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

A Walk in the Forest Primeval

Contemplating the fall of civilizations in Inwood Hill Park At times, it feels like we’re living at the end of civilization. With the arrival of the global pandemic, many governing structures are teetering at a breaking point, one measured in graphs, curves, and waves. Whole systems like mass transit and global trade are fractured as well. Steps leading to a high ridge trail in Inwood Hill Park Most threatened are our social arrangements, the ones in which most of us were socialized. The norms of human interaction are shockingly in tatters these days. Just three months ago, it was normal to hang out with others in person without worrying if being in one another’s presence would cause illness or possibly death. Political and economic structures are teetering, with a critical collapse of what was once known as the public space. A Baltimore Oriole visits a tree near the main entrance of Inwood Hill Park on Seaman Avenue. It’s easy to imagine a swift evacuation of once pr

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City. View of the Hudson River from the Keeper's House The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington. Recommended purchase - a map det

From Penn Station to New York Landmarks: Measuring Walking Distance and Time in Manhattan

(revised 2017) How long does it take to walk from Penn Station/Madison Square Garden to well-known destinations in Manhattan? What are the best walking routes ? What if I don't want to see anything in particular but just want to walk around? In addition to the thousands of working commuters from the surrounding area, especially from New Jersey and Long Island who arrive at Penn Station via New Jersey Transit or the Long Island Rail Road, many people arrive at the station just to spend time in The City. Some have questions. Furthermore, a sporting event may have brought you to Madison Square Garden (above Penn Station), and you want to check out what the city offers near the event. This post if for you.  The map below should help you measure walking distances and times from the station to well-known destinations in Manhattan - Bryant Park , the Metropolitan Museum of Art , the Empire State Building , Times Square , Rockefeller Center , Washington Square Park , the High Line

The High Line and Chelsea Market: A Good Pairing for a Walk

(revised 2017) The advent of spring, with its signs of growth and rebirth, is apparent both on the High Line , where volunteers are cutting away the old growth to reveal fresh blooms, and inside the Chelsea Market, where new tenants are revitalizing the space. A walk to take in both can become an exploration of bounty and surprise, a sensual walk of adventure and sustenance. A good pairing for a walk: The High Line and Chelsea Market Walking the High Line for a round trip from Gansevoort to W. 30th and then back again adds up to a healthy 2-mile walk. Regular walkers of the elevated park look for an excuse to go there. Especially delightful is showing off the park, a model of its kind, to visitors from out of town. A stroll through Chelsea Market. Time check. If you haven't stopped into Chelsea Market lately, you may want to take a detour from the High Line at the stairs on W. 16th St. and walk through the market for a quick assessment or a sampling. Among the sampli

25 Radical Things to Do in Greenwich Village

A list of 25 things to Do in Greenwich Village with history of protest, old cafes, and signs of change. Hipstamatic iPhone images of contemporary Greenwich Village by Walking Off the Big Apple (Revised and updated.) Flipping through  Greenwich Village: A Photographic Guide by Edmund T. Delaney and Charles Lockwood with photographs by George Roos, a second, revised edition published in 1976, it’s easy to compare the black and white images with the look of today’s neighborhood and see how much the Village has changed. A long shot photograph of Washington Square taken up high from an apartment north of the park, and with the looming two towers of the World Trade Center off to the distant south in the background, reveals a different landscape than what we would encounter today.    On the north side of the park, an empty lot and two small buildings have since given way to NYU’s Kimmel Center and a new NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Center Life. The Judson Memorial Church