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Showing posts from May, 2013

Back on Coney Island: The B&B Carousell

Visitors to Coney Island can once again enjoy the sights and sounds of the B&B Carousell, the last great merry-go-round of New York's most celebrated beach playground. Next to the towering Parachute Jump and near the boardwalk entrance at Stillwell Avenue, the B&B graces the new Steeplechase Plaza.


Vividly alive in their authentic color and fierceness, the fifty hand-carved horses go round and around and around. The ride's equally historic and rare band organ adds a gentle and steady tune to Coney Island's thrilling cacophony of rickety roller coasters, drumming pop disco beats, and the distant cries of small children stepping into the waves.  



In the early 1920s, the B&B made its debut here. All except one of the B&B horses were originally carved by Charles Carmel, an authority on Coney Island carousels.* Back at the turn of the century, the island enjoyed two dozen or so of the merry-go-rounds.


In 2005, when the B&B found itself the last remaining ca…

The New Waterfront: Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City

Gantry Plaza State Park in Hunter's Point of Long Island City, Queens features stunning views of midtown Manhattan across the way, but the award-winning designs of the park merit their own close-ups. Built in stages to transform an industrial landscape into a pleasing public space, the park does not erase the past. In ways that are reverential as opposed to cute and quotable, the gantries in the southern part and the grounds of the old Pepsi bottling plant in the north are not just acknowledged, they are celebrated.


The 1998 design by landscape architecture firm of Thomas Balsley Associates accentuated Manhattan skyline views through the windows of the old railroad car float cranes (the gantries), a futuristic fishing pier, a great lawn, and stepping stone paths to the water. The lines of the paths and park ripple along in soft waves, mirroring the movement of the East River and the varying terrain of the riverfront. On the fishing pier, fishermen rest their poles in elegant notch…

A Walk from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to Brooklyn Bridge Park: The City Past to the City Future

(Note: April 2017. Squibb Bridge, after undergoing much needed repairs, has reopened. NYT story)

A morning walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade most always seems like a good way to start a day in New York, offering sweeping views of the skyline of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. So romantic! The promenade, high above the East River, would make it on my personal top 10 list for visitors to the city, especially in the context of walking through the handsome neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. An evening walk here turns the city into a dramatic spectacle of lights.


Or, so it would seem, especially for the morning. These days, due to the feverish building of the Brooklyn Bridge Park below, a lofty walk along the venerable promenade feels more at times like a visit to a construction site than a romantic stroll. It's also loud. But if you have a thing for the sights and sounds of tractors moving great mounds of earth, this is a spot for you. Some of these very same tractors …

The Summer Rolls in on the First Five Cars: A Warm Evening on the Battery

Though the unofficial start of summer arrives on Memorial Day weekend, now a week away, a hint of the season arrived on Wednesday afternoon this week. At some point, the winds shifted from the north to the south, and when it was time for me to leave work and go home, a wanderlust took over. Upon these southern breezes, I made an impromptu decision to skip my home stop on the downtown 1 train and to stay on till the end of the line.


The end of the line seemed promising, not so much for the destination - the neighborhood of Battery Park and the ferry terminals - but in the actual subway stop itself. The 1 train currently ends at the old South Ferry station, the one that the MTA recently recommissioned in order to serve commuters to Staten Island. The hurricane of last fall had knocked out the newer and bigger one, turning it into "an aquarium," in the words of Governor Cuomo. Now the older station is unearthed, dusted off and operable. But due to its small size, commuters must…

Let's Talk About Madison Square Park in the Spring, and Public Art

Let's talk about one New York park that always seems to pop in the spring - Madison Square Park. The colors here are outlandish, and yes, while these photos may take the colors up a notch, they do not exaggerate by much. And let's talk about the challenges of creating public art in such a setting.


The lawns in Madison Square Park seem overly green in the spring, and the colors of the flora render equally exaggerated. Not all works of art, courtesy of the Madison Square Park Conservancy's art program, Mad. Sq. Art (official site), can live up to the natural and manmade lushness of this place. Under certain circumstances, public art can wither here. Sometimes, the work seems too small and confined. On the other other hand, occasionally we get something big and daring, such as Antony Gormley's EVENT HORIZON (2010) with its life-size figures creepily perched on nearby rooftops (and in the park, too) or Jaume Plensa's ECHO (2011), a monolithic head. This year we have Ne…

Island Adventures: 16 Places to Go in the New York Archipelago

Updated 2017. Commuters in New York City need not be reminded that the city, at its geographical essence, is a vast archipelago. Every day over a million people venture forth through the city's network of islands and parts of islands, sailing through the New York Harbor from Staten Island to Manhattan or crossing the East River and Hudson River and the tidal straight of the Harlem River via car, bus, train, or bike to their appointed destinations.


Thousands of people go to work in the New York islands every day just to work on boats. These island-hoppers include members of the commercial shipping trade, the tourist industry, local law enforcement, and the armed services. In addition, thousands of vacationers come and go from the archipelago, boarding ocean liners to explore distant islands with more swimmable waters.

In short, the New York archipelago is a beehive of activity at all times. For proof, take a gander at the Live Ships Map from MarineTraffic.com. The map shows passeng…