simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: October 2007
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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Jack Be Little

'Tis that time of year. Halloween, apple pickin', school's started, sun sets early, days are getting shorter, crisp air, holiday's are coming and everyone is moving a little more quickly. There are more things to do, less time to do them and it's getting a little too chilly to relax a la summer anyway. Tonight is the the annual Village Halloween Parade - one of the biggest parades in the country with 1 million attending. I will be photographing the event and putting up the images on this site for the next couple of days. And don't forget to change your clocks this weekend - set them back one hour Sunday morning (November 4th this year) at 2 AM ...

Regarding the photo (taken in Union Square): I learned today that the small squash-like fruit in the photo is not a gourd (as I had thought) but a miniature pumpkin - a variety known as Jack Be Little. They can be used for decoration or eating. They are perfect for stuffing and I understand quite delicious. The skin is edible if boiled for 5 minutes before baking.

Postings related to Union Square: Heirloom Tomatoes, Union Square Greenmarket, Republic, Vintage Mural, One-Man Band, Luna Park Cafe, Gentleman Peeler, Flora, Zeckendorf, Reverend Billy, W Hotel, Towers, Metronome, Union Square.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Geography matters. If one looks at a map of Manhattan, you will see that from 125th Street down to 23rd Street, it is essentially a rectangle with First Avenue being the easternmost North-South Avenue. South of 14th Street the island bulges on the east side - here you have the Lower East Side and Alphabet City - Avenues A, B, C & D. This area is one that is furthest from subway lines in the city. It is nearly a mile from Avenue C and the nearest station at Astor Place or 2nd Avenue. I believe that this frontier land location has been one factor in its later gentrification. The area has a rich ethnic history, occupied by the German, Polish and most recently the Latin community (Avenue C has been given the name Losaida meaning Lower East Side in Spanish). In my recent explorations of the community gardens in the area, I discovered a real gem of a restaurant at 145 Avenue C and 9th Street - Esperanto. In warm weather their French style doors are open and there is al fresco sidewalk dining - beautiful since a large community garden faces each exposure. The food is pan-Latin with Brazilian and Cuban drinks. There are two rooms with a warm, dark atmosphere. The main room (in the photo) has burnt-orange walls, tiled floors and a bar. The other room is painted in turquoise. The food is excellent and very well priced. There are prix fixe dinners and brunches. Some have complained about the wait staff being inattentive, but I found it acceptable. Highly recommended ...

Related Postings (click any link): Shangri-La, La Plaza Cultural Garden, Albert's Garden, Devil's Playground, Howl!, Vegan Chic , Bluestockings

Monday, 29 October 2007

The Dark Ages

This is the time of year when conversation in NYC frequently turns to heating. Ironically, in 2007 in the largest city in the United States where wealth abounds, people paying thousands of dollars per month in rent are still frequently concerned with getting adequate heat. During the heating season (October 1 through May 31), the City Housing Maintenance Code and State Multiple Dwelling Law requires the following:

* Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees;
* Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees.

Do you see the problem here? Firstly, most people not from the arctic tundra find these minimum requirements much too low - 55 degrees inside after 10 PM? Fortunately, most tenants get much more than this. Secondly, these indoor temperatures are actually not measured. Boilers typically have basic settings - on and off (based on outdoor temperature); high, medium, low, etc. Unlike a private home where a thermostat regulates indoor temperature, no such mechanism exists in a multi-unit apartment building. So, there is either too much heat or too little. Many run too hot. Add to this that it is generally not a good idea to turn steam systems on and off (in the apartment) and that the shutoff valves frequently malfunction anyway, and it is not uncommon for New Yorkers to open windows in mid-winter. Thirdly, landlords are always looking to cut costs, but in NYC, rent control and rent stabilization laws exacerbate the situation. With rental income regulated (nearly 1 million apartments in NYC are still rent regulated), landlords are much more inclined to hold back services, repairs and upgrades. So, with rats gone wild, dogs (and horses) relieving themselves in the streets, all the city's trash put out on the streets on pickup days, the homeless living on the streets year round, drafts through old windows and not enough heat - New York can, at times, feel like the Dark Ages ...

Related Postings: Rats Gone Wild, Wildlife Control, Stephanie, Dead to the World, Garbage a la Mode

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Fall Out Against the War

Yesterday NYC participated in a national mobilization against the the war and occupation in Iraq - Fall Out Against the War. New York was one of 11 cities involved in the event, initiated by United for Peace and Justice. An estimated 45,000 stood up to the rain and marched and rallied for peace, led by Iraq veterans, veterans of other wars, military families, union members and students. Demonstrators assembled south of 23rd street and marched down Broadway to Foley Square, culminating in a Peace and Justice Fair. A rally with speakers was held at Union Square where a stage was set up - an appropriate location as this park has a long history of public protests and demonstrations. I do believe that the sentiment against the war has been growing - lack of timetable or clear exit strategy, 3,800 Americans dead, hundreds of billions spent with our international reputation damaged. For much of the populace who do not engage in nuanced political analysis, the mere length and cost of this occupation are reason enough to want out - the scenario is reminiscent of the Vietnam War where public opposition became so great (and a clear win doubtful) that continuing became untenable. Many who initially supported the war have reversed their positions and vocalized such, including notables such as Christopher Hitchens ...
Related Postings: Picture New York, Reverend Billy, Union Square

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Kristal Palace

Last summer I asked a photographer friend to accompany me on a final pilgrimage to CBGB, knowing it was to close in October of that year. So, on a hot August Sunday afternoon with the city deserted, we headed with our cameras to 315 Bowery and home of the legendary rock club. We were pleasantly surprised with our reception - the person attending welcomed us with open arms, saying that the owner, Hilly Kristal, had always supported and encouraged photographers. So rather than having to whine, beg or sneak around taking harried photos surreptitiously, we were able to indulge and take our time. We toured and photographed the entire place - the bar, the stage, the green rooms, the sound room and the infamous downstairs bathrooms. I never released all the images, so today I am showing a photo of the main stage. The club was a true dive bar - graffitied with stickers and posters, peeling paint etc. I have done three other postings on the club - if you are interested see the list below. The most recent posting of June 16, 2007 was concerning the ongoing state of the club in limbo after its closing, with Kristal saying he intended to move the entire place to Las Vegas. On August 28th of this year, Kristal died at 75 of lung cancer ...
Previous postings on CBGB: CBGB, Gotta Go?, Limbo

Friday, 26 October 2007


It occurred to me looking at this photo that NYC is really loaded - not just with money, but with icons. It explains why New Yorkers can be quite cynical - everywhere we look there are spectacular vistas, frequently with MULTIPLE icons. In this shot alone (taken from DUMBO, Brooklyn) we have the Brooklyn Bridge, the Municipal Building, the Empire State Building and last (and least) the Verizon Building. And there were numerous other notables in view but not framed by this photo (South Street Seaport, the Financial District, the Woolworth Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges). When leaving my office daily, I see the Chrysler Building framed by Grace Church looking north (click here) and the Woolworth Building to the south. Walking home through SOHO's historic cast iron district, I see the Empire State Building framed by Washington Square Arch (click here). Only Paris comes to mind with such a plethora of notable places and things that are household names. There are numerous activities, industries, businesses and services that NYC stands out as a center for - publishing, advertising, finance, music, dance, theater, film, law, fine arts, architecture, parks, street life, fashion, retailers and dining - there are over 17,000 restaurants in Manhattan alone. We are used to superlatives - biggest, most, best. As far as being loaded in the classic money sense, we've got that too, of course. I remember being stunned by an article in the Wall Street Journal that gave the number of 10 figure annual bonuses in the city ...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Abingdon Square

I would not say that Abingdon Square is a "must see" or recommend going out of one's way to visit. There is an interesting article from 1885 in the New York Times bemoaning its condition: "AN ODD BREATHING SPOT; ABINGDON-SQUARE AS IT WAS AND AS IT NOW APPEARS. ONCE THE CENTRE OF WEALTH AND FASHION, BUT NOW GIVEN OVER TO NEGLECT AND DECAY. Among the old-fashioned winding streets which cross each other at all possible angles in the old Ninth Ward is the queerest little square of which New-York can boast. Abingdon-square is the name of this odd little spot. There is a strange dead yet alive look about Abingdon-square which reminds one of a dying tree which, struggling against its fate, still sends forth at some points green shoots." The rest of the article paints an equally grim view of this square - it is vastly improved since that time. I do find, however that the park/square does not have a particularly strong identity, kind of wallowing in an indistinct obscurity. The park was established in 1831 and was part of Peter Warren's 300-acre estate. His eldest daughter, Charlotte, married Willoughby Bertie, the Fourth Earl of Abingdon, and a share of the Warren estate was part of her dowry. Her portion included the land that came to be known as Abingdon Square (the name was preserved, because the Earl and his wife had sympathized with the American patriots, and he had argued in Parliament against British policy in the colonies). The bronze sculpture, Abingdon Square Memorial (also known as the Abingdon Doughboy), was dedicated in 1921 in memory of local men who fought in World War I - twenty thousand spectators attended. In 1988-9 the park underwent a restoration. There is also a greenmarket on Saturdays. This small spot of green in the West Village, bounded by several thoroughfares yet set apart, is a perfect spot to relax, read and people watch ...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Bridge Cafe

Many New Yorkers avoid the South Street Seaport area (barring an occasional visit for a performance like that of Spiegelworld - click here), seeing the area as too touristy. This is a legitimate complaint, but there are also good reasons to visit this neighborhood. Once one gets away from the beaten path of Fulton Street you quickly start to appreciate the charms of this area, the oldest area of the city. The buildings are beautifully restored, streets are cobbled and there are a number of establishments worth patronizing - museum, restaurants, bookstores, galleries. The Bridge Cafe, at 279 Water Street, is one of those places. The restaurant, at the end of Water Street and the corner of Dover Street, is virtually under the Brooklyn Bridge, housed in a wood-frame building erected in 1794 - click here for photo. This historic gem is believed to be the oldest business in NYC and the oldest drinking establishment - in 1847 Henry Williams opened a porter house in this section of Water Street, known for its saloons and brothels. The cuisine is eclectic New American. I have not eaten there but reviews appear to be consistently good - I intend to to soon ...

Notes: At the time the place was built, before land-fill projects expanded the area of Lower Manhattan, the East River actually came right up to the building.
When Ed Koch was mayor, he met here twice weekly at a private table.

Related Postings. Click on any link: Spiegeltent, Belle de Jour, South Street Seaport, Dead to the World, Fishbridge Garden, Jet Ski.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Metropolitan Club

What perhaps is most remarkable about the Metropolitan Club (like the Harmonie Club across the street) is how unknown it is to most visitors and residents, particularly given its prominent location - one of the finest in all the city at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park - and its prestigious neighbors. It abuts the Pierre Hotel with the Sherry Netherland to the South and sits across from Grand Army Plaza and the Plaza Hotel. One block south we have the Apple store with its huge glass cube and from there the familiar, iconic Fifth Avenue flagship retail institutions - Bergdorf, Tiffany, Cartier, etc. The private club was organized by J.P. Morgan for his coterie of friends unable to gain admittance to other private clubs. The 1893 building is a McKim, Mead and White extravaganza with the feel of an Italian palazzo. I have not been inside, but I understand that the interior is quite grand with Corinthian columns, scarlet carpeting and a two story marble hall with a double staircase. The entrance, at 1 East 60th Street, is colonnaded with a carriage entrance and courtyard - click here for photo. ...

Related Links - The Sherry, Apple and Sherry, Harmonie Club, Lotos Club

Monday, 22 October 2007

Tower of Toys

The Tower of Toys has been well known to habitues of the East Village and even to some from outside this country - buses of Japanese tourists would occasionally visit. Click here for more photos. This structure is the creation of Eddie Boros, an extraordinarily eccentric character who lived his entire life on 5th Street, around the corner from where this tower is located in the Sixth Street & Avenue B Garden. He was the son of Hungarian immigrants, a house painter and a seamstress. Boros served in the Army during the Korean War, but was such an adamant pacifist that he was put on a detail planting trees. In 1985 Boros began carving large wood sculptures in the middle of this garden, but this was met with opposition from other garden members. He was told to confine his work to one 4' x 8' plot, but eventually this expanded to several plots. Boros, with a passion for reuse of discarded things, decorated his 65 foot tower (which he named My Baby) with items scavenged from the neighborhood. Boros was known for climbing to the top of the tower and beating a drum or blowing a horn. The tower appeared for a time in the opening shots for the television show NYPD Blue. A 1/2 scale version also appeared in the musical RENT. His structure was always controversial and a bone of contention with other members of the garden. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store now that Boros has passed away ...

NOTE: Boros died April 27,2007 at the age of 74 while recuperating after having both legs amputated above the knee.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Steve McCurry

Yesterday I attended the Photoplus International Conference & Expo - the big annual 3-day photo show held at the Jacob Javits Center. There are hundreds of booths with vendors of all types - photography equipment, printers, computers, software, services, books etc. Of course new camera equipment is the big draw for most attendees and Nikon and Canon were prominently positioned, showing new, exciting products, typically unveiled at trade shows. This is also a good place for one's education, with numerous seminars running simultaneously on all days. One really inspiring aspect of the show was a gallery setup by Epson, featuring some of the world's finest photographers with their work printed on the latest high-end color printers. The photographers themselves were on hand signing free copies of a selected photo. The signings were scheduled at appointed times throughout the day. The lines were quite manageable, so I decided to wait to meet Steve McCurry and get my own signed photo. McCurry is an award winning photojournalist most well known for his photograph Afghan Girl that originally appeared on the cover of the June, 1985 edition of National Geographic magazine - named as "the most recognized photograph" in the history of the magazine. I have been a fan of Steve's ever since I saw the documentary on his search to find this girl, an Afghan refugee, that he had previously photographed. Her identity remained unknown for over 15 years until Steve and a National Geographic team located her in 2002 - Sharbat Gula . If you are unfamiliar with Steve's exquisite work, I highly recommend you check his website - click here. Sharbat is photo number 17 in his Afghanistan gallery ...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Moving Stuff

New York is a very large city, and being large means having a lot of stuff to move around. Much of this goes on behind the scenes - moving people via subways and tunnels and moving things like water, sewage, garbage, electricity, gas, steam and freight via their own subterranean or superterranean systems. The amount and numbers of things moved in the city is staggering, e.g. 24 million pounds of garbage per day, 2.6 million tons of air freight per year or 1.3 billion gallons of sewage per day. It's rather hard to believe that transports of this magnitude are even possible and that the systems needed for them continue to work day after day with very infrequent major failures or breakdowns. If you like reading about this kind of thing, there is a wonderful book I was given as a gift - The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ashler which goes into all of these systems and features NYC throughout as its example. The waterways of the city are extremely busy and tugboats pushing barges are a common sight (like these in the East River) along with other maritime activities. When you get a chance, head for the water and look around ...

Related Postings: Working Harbor, Big Allis, Jet Ski, Hollyhock, The Water Club, Manhattan Island, Cruising.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Economy Candy

Feeling a dearth of candy in our office yesterday and being a nice warm autumn day for a walk, two of us decided to make a pilgrimage to Economy Candy at 108 Rivington street on the Lower East Side. The family owned business occupies an entire 3 story building (click here for more photos) - the ground floor for retail and the upper floors for custom packages and managing their online business. Jerry Cohen runs the store with his wife Ilene and son Mitchell. One if Jerry's smartest moves was buying the building they're in - good insurance against the rapidly escalating rents in NYC. I had the good fortune of meeting Jerry and his wife - they were extremely friendly and accommodating. The visit was an experience of classic old New York City. From their website: "When Jerry Cohen's father opened Economy Candy in 1937, it was a typical corner candy store of its day. Bulk bins full of colorful hard candies enticed youngsters with their panorama of choices. Guys could buy their dolls a heart-shaped box of chocolates when they had trouble expressing themselves in words. Barrels in the back yielded a geography lesson of nuts from around the world. The hard times of the Depression were easing up, the grim specter of war-to-come wasn't yet hovering over American shores, and television was a scientific marvel that was unlikely to have any practical commercial application." They have built a reputation on pricing and selection (they have hundreds of kinds of chocolates, candies, nuts, dried fruits, halvah and sugar free candy), but what is particularly enticing to me are the nostalgia favorites - nearly all the candies of my childhood are there, products that are virtually impossible to find anywhere else and certainly not all in one place. Skybars, Squirrel Nut Zippers, candy cigarettes, candy buttons, Nik-L-Nip, Necco Wafers, Chuckles, Charleston Chew, Jolly Ranchers, Good and Plenty, Smores, Jaw Busters, Milk Duds, Bit-O-Honey, Sugar Daddy, Pez, wax lips, and the controversial Chocolate Babies. Hey - do you want to make your own authentic New York Egg Cream? They have Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup by the gallon ...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Cold Stone

I've walked the East Village for decades, but was completely unfamiliar with these cemeteries until recently, when I visited as part of Open House New York. The New York Marble Cemetery (1830) and the New York City Marble Cemetery (1831) are the two oldest non-sectarian burial grounds in NYC. The older of the two, the New York Marble Cemetery, is very easy to miss. The entrance/walkway is a narrow alley between two buildings on 2nd Avenue (at what was once known as 41½ Second Avenue) with two iron gates leading to a unique secret garden cemetery. No gravestones were placed on the ground; instead, marble plaques set into the cemetery’s long north and south walls give the names of the families interred nearby. All burials are in 156 below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble. In response to fears about yellow fever outbreaks, legislation had outlawed earth graves, so marble vaults the size of small rooms were built ten feet underground in the excavated interior of the block bounded by 2nd Ave, 2nd St., 3rd St. and the Bowery. Access to the 156 family vaults is by the removal of stone slabs set below the grade of the lawn. Approximately 2,060 people are buried there. Most of the interments took place between 1830 and 1870; the last was in 1937. This cemetery was initially so popular, a second, the New York City Marble Cemetery was opened around the corner on 2nd Street (bottom two photos). There are many similarities between these two independent cemeteries (such as the underground vaults) but this one may be readily seen through a handsome iron fence with gate, extending along its south side on East Second Street between First and Second Avenues. It is surrounded by a high brick wall and by houses and tenements on three sides. Also, there are a few large grave stones. What's interesting about these cemeteries, is that at the time of their establishment the area was anticipated to develop into a fashionable district. In fact quite the opposite happened with the area becoming dominated with tenements and the cemeteries neglected. Eventually they gained landmark status. And the neighborhood finally improved. But that's another story ...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Performance Z-A

I assumed the Ring Dome Pavilion installed at Lieutenant Petrosino Square was just a whimsical piece of public art. Not so. This structure provided a setting for Performance Z-A: a Pavilion and 26 Days of Events at Storefront - a series of 26 evening events, performances, concerts and screenings to celebrate the Storefront's 25th anniversary. The Storefront for Art and Architecture is located in a unique triangular ground-level micro space at 97 Kenmare Street in the Little Italy/SOHO area. Click here to learn about them. The pavilion itself was designed by designed by Korean architect Minsuk Cho of Mass Studies in Seoul and is made of 1,000 off-the-shelf plastic hoops attached with plastic ties, supported by a thin steel structure. The hoops were fitted with electroluminescent wire. Here is a video of the installation at Youtube. Although the month-long event itself has passed, I would recommend a visit anytime to the Storefront. It's an amazing little space you won't forget ...

Note: Lieutenant Petrosino Square is a tiny, triangular "pocket" park located between Cleveland Place, Kenmare Street and Lafayette Street. It adjoins the renowned Eileen's Cheesecake - click here.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


A friend called this morning to let me know that today is Blog Action Day where participating bloggers do a posting on an environmental issue. This is good timing, since I have wanted to do something on the clutter of newsboxes in the city. These boxes are typically extremely unattractive (with disparate sizes and colors) and poorly maintained - filthy, stickered, broken, with some even being used as trash receptacles. I intended to show two sets of boxes - a hideous strip and the much more attractive approach as seen here on Park Avenue (here is an article indicating this may be a trend). I intended to call the posting "Solution", which it is at some level. But I am rethinking my position. It may be a solution if there is no reduction of production and distribution of this type of literature, but perhaps we need to reevaluate the need for materials like this to be printed at all. The three Rs of waste management, reduce, reuse, recycle form a hierarchical pyramid with the most favored option at the top - reduction, and recycling at the bottom. Some studies have already shown that recycling is a net energy loss. Unfortunately the three Rs are applied selectively - consumption is built into the fabric of American culture with shopping and malls as recreation. Reduction is not seriously looked at by most citizens. No one really wants to make sacrifices on the consumption side. Activists like Reverend Billy with his stop shopping message (click here) and organizations like Burningman are lone voices, frequently seen as fringe elements of society. With the Internet, electronic media and portable devices such as the iPhone, laptops and ereaders, we are at an optimal place in time to really reduce printed materials and move towards the elusive paperless office, predicted as far back as 1975 (in an article in Business Week). Unfortunately, technology has given us the ability to created more paper documents and the amount has been growing. I am more of a stick than a carrot person, so I believe there will need to be penalties, sanctions and legislation for us to break our consumptive habits and effective change to begin. I understand that a society needs an economic engine and that commerce is a necessary component, but we need to achieve some balance with appropriate consumption before we are buried in trash ...

Monday, 15 October 2007

Bomb Factory

On March 6, 1970, a townhouse at 18 west 11th Street exploded, leaving the entire building destroyed and damaging the neighboring building at number 16, where Dustin Hoffman was resident. An accidental detonation had occurred in a subbasement bomb factory run by members of the Weathermen. Weatherman ( or the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization) was a small group of radicals formerly from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). This group was very extreme, calling for the revolutionary overthrow of the US Government using violent means. The bombs had been intended to be used at Columbia University. The explosion killed three members and sent Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin running into the street naked (Wilkerson's family owned the building and were away on vacation). An F.B.I. report said that ''had all the explosives detonated, the explosion would have leveled everything on both sides of the street.'' The building, built in the 1840's by Henry Brevoort Jr., was once owned by Charles Merrill, a founder of Merrill Lynch & Company. His son, the poet James Merrill, was born there. James wrote a poem after the incident entitled 18 West 11th Street. There are too many details in this amazing story to go into here - I highly recommend the article by Mel Gussow from the New York Times in 2000 - click here. The lot sat vacant for nearly a decade before a replacement house, designed by Hugh Hardy, was was built in 1978. As you can see from the photo, the modern design was quite a departure from the 19th century row houses around it. The new design, with its angular facade jutting out, was controversial and took some effort to finally pass the landmarks commission. Very radical ...

Note: There is a Paddington Bear which the current residents keep in the picture window. His attire is changed according to the weather. Click here for photo.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


Here we go again. It's Sunday morning, so I thought I'd do a nice "easy" posting with a compelling photo. In fact I was worried - how much can you say (or should you say) about purple cauliflower? And not be boring. But this blog has a history of being didactic, so leaving this photo to speak for itself was out of the question. Hence, I thought a little bit of research would be appropriate. However, as frequently is the case, I found a world - the world of purple foods and cauliflower in particular with lots of articles and sites ( is registered). I learned that cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens are actually all the same species, Brassica Oleracea, but are of different cultivar groups. The whole concept of cultivars is fascinating and relatively new to me - if you want to delve into this, click here. I am astounded to have found a site which lists 100 varieties of cauliflower! The purple color, btw, is not dye but due to anthocyanins - the largest group of water-soluble pigments in the plant kingdom and are responsible for the blue, red, and purple color of many fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, and leaves. In recent years, studies have suggested that anthocyanins serve as valuable diet antioxidants. However, because they are water soluble, I have read of problems cooking and losing the color.
About the photo: I discovered this table of purple cauliflower while strolling through the Union Square Greenmarket with a friend. I had no intention of doing any photography, since I have posted numerous times regarding Union Square: the park itself, the Greenmarket, the Gandhi sculpture, restaurants and the architecture/buildings in the immediate area (see the 14 links of previous postings below). But when we happened upon this display, we were so awed by the color, I felt compelled to shoot and share ...
Postings related to Union Square: Heirloom Tomatoes, Union Square Greenmarket, Republic, Vintage Mural, One-Man Band, Luna Park Cafe, Gentleman Peeler, Flora, Zeckendorf, Reverend Billy, W Hotel, Towers, Metronome, Union Square.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Devil's Playground

It's obvious I'm not getting out of the city enough - or taking enough time off. Hence my obsession with community gardens, parks and other greenery. In this photo, I show a pleasant scene with people in a gazebo in La Plaza Cultural Garden. As atypical as it may be, I'm sure you can see through the thinly disguised veil to hide my true motivation - another garden shot. Sorry. Of course only a New Yorker would feel a need to justify an "indulgence" in nature at the expense of all the exciting cultural things one should be doing. In the world of film, such indulgences are fodder for award winners or box office smash hits: men living with bears, trekking after penguins or living in the wild ala Thoreau. And then there is the busy busy ethic, a defining characteristic of our culture and particularly a place like New York, an ethic that basically says any and all busyness is good and is sufficient to justify one's existence. And relaxing is at least a venial sin. By this definition a gazebo could be seen as the devil's playground ...

Friday, 12 October 2007


It's easy to ignore what little there is left of the natural world when in NYC. Sometimes. But we still have weather and like everywhere else, weather sets the mood. Here we have a storm threatening as seen from Columbus Circle, looking South - it really felt like Superman's Gotham City. The building with the triangular windows is our friend, the Hearst Tower (click here). The tall thin tower is Central Park Place, a residential condominium built in 1988 by Davis Brody & Associates. The hulking shrouded building barely visible in the center is the controversial 2 Columbus Circle by Edward Durell Stone from 1964, sometimes referred to as the Lollipop building (Ada Louise Huxtable, then architecture critic of The New York Times, said it resembled "a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops."). The building is to be occupied by the Museum of Arts and Design in 2008. Click here for this story. New York is a city of stark contrasts and the relatively unpredictable nature of the climate in the Northeast (as opposed to the Southwest, e.g.) just adds one more variable to the mix. There's nothing like a brooding NYC day to remind us that in spite of our abilities to create technologies and shape the world, we are still fundamentally powerless in the hands of mother nature ...

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Beacon Of Hope

I never tire of seeing the Chrysler Building, particularly in the evening when lit. I have posted numerous times on various aspects of the building - the gargoyles, elevators, lobby, murals, entrance and the Trylon Towers - see the list of links below. Since 911, most large office buildings have increased security and in the case of the Chrysler Building (and Woolworth Building), they are off limits entirely unless one has specific business in the building. During Open House New York 2006, I was able to get into the lobby and stairwells and photograph at my leisure. For me, the Chrysler Building is many things - assurance that there is some permanence in a world of change, a link to old New York, a beautiful art deco masterpiece, a metaphor for our aspirations, dreams and hopes with its gleaming stainless steel spire reaching upwards, and a reliable NYC icon - letting me know at a glance, without any doubt, of where I am ...

Chrysler Building Posts (click on any of the following 8 links): Crown Jewel, Gargoyles, Stairwell, Back in Time, Mural, Going Up, Trylon Towers, Contrast.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Building Gone Wild

The building in this photo, located at 246 East 4th Street at Avenue B in the East Village, is a mystery - the raison d'etre for the super bright colors, the history, the architecture with its friezes and exterior sculptures, etc are unknown to me. The red, blue, gold and white painted structure stands out dramatically from anything around it and screams for attention. There are virtually no references to it online. I did find two residents in a phone directory who are doing business from the building. I also found a reference to "Otnoob" which appears to have a retail canopy (all I could find about the word "Otnoob" is a World of Warcraft character - a human, rogue). If you are interested in finding this place, the East 4th Deli at 53 Avenue B is located in the same building, but I don't think you will miss it :)

Tuesday, 9 October 2007


There was something so incredibly relaxing about this couple. Perhaps it was their ability to sleep outdoors with the trust and self assurance it requires. Or perhaps the bliss of youth where the burdens and baggage of life have not yet accumulated. The gentleness of their embrace. Maybe the dappled light on a beautiful afternoon with the gift of an atypically warm day. Many people have problems sleeping and taking a nap in a public place is probably inconceivable to them. The U.S. Department of Health reports that approximately 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year. The problem increases as one ages. So, for those of you who have no problem sleeping - celebrate and take a nap outdoors on a sunny day. Be careful though - there are local ordinances against sleeping in public places (with some controversy) which are sometimes enforced ...

Note about naps: There are individuals who have experimented with polyphasic sleeping, an alternate sleeping pattern where the total number of hours slept in a day is substantially reduced by taking short naps at regular intervals (in lieu of sleeping a typical single session). In a popular variant, the Uberman's Sleep Schedule, one takes six naps of 20–25 minutes each four hours apart throughout the day. Polyphasic sleep was most extensively studied by Dr. Claudio Stampi.

Photo Note: The book being read? - Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Plot: A Socratic dialogue between and narrator Alan Lomax and a telepathic gorilla (Ishmael). Sounds interesting.

RELATED POSTINGS: Dead to the World, The Art of Kissing, PDA, War and Peace, Signs of Summer, Extreme Camping, Caravan of Dreams, Aspiration, Stephanie

Monday, 8 October 2007

Oktoberfest New York

Until yesterday, I did not realize that there was a place in Manhattan where one could have a serious, authentic Oktoberfest celebration. While strolling down Avenue C in the East Village, a friend and I stumbled upon Zum Schneider Restaurant and Biergarten. Festivities were under way with people spilling out on to the streets, a film crew on the scene, an oompah band musician with his trombone, Schneider Weisse umbrellas, Hofbräu München flags and of course plenty of beer drinking. Oktoberfest dates back to 1810, in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. It takes place in Munich (Bavaria) Germany and is the largest fair in the world with 6 million people attending. The festival lasts over two weeks, ending in October. Fourteen main beer tents are set up, each associated with a different brewery - some hold nearly 10,000 people - click here for more info. Zum Schneider was opened in 2000 by Bavarian Sylvester Schneider, who missed summers in the beergarden of his native land - click here for Zum Schneider's website. So, if you're looking for a Bavarian indoor Biergarten or Oktoberfest in NYC, this looks like the place to be. Neighborhood residents, however, have not been so pleased, but a settlement was reached ...

Sunday, 7 October 2007


Depending on where one lives and where and how one travels and commutes, one can experience Manhattan as a maritime community or simply as one of the most exciting and culturally rich cities in the world. In a city like San Francisco or Portland, Maine, with hills and vistas, one is constantly reminded of the sea. In Manhattan, it is easy to become immersed in all that is here without a hint of its island nature. In recent years, the city's waterfront has become progressively more and more reconstructed and utilized - in ways that are sometimes very surprising even to residents. I have posted on a number waterfront establishments, residences and activities (click on any of the following links): Manhattan Island, kayaking in the Hudson River, the Water Club, the River Cafe (Brooklyn), Bargemusic (Brooklyn), the Frying Pan, the 79th Street Boat Basin, Christopher Street Pier, Battery Park City & promenade, art fest in DUMBO, Meier World, Coney Island and The Shore (with the Iceberg Athletic Club and the Coney Island Polar Bear Club) and the wonderful Mermaid Parade (and here). NYC also has a very active cruise ship business at the New York Passenger Ship Terminal (on the Hudson River at Piers 88, 90, 92, 94 at 46-54th street). The city sees 1,000,000 passengers yearly. The cruise ship terminal is currently undergoing a $150 million renovation. In 2006, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal opened at Pier 12 in the Red Hook area in Brooklyn.
Notes about the photo: the glass building at the far left is the Time Warner Center (click here). The articulated building in the center with triangular windows is the Hearst Tower (click here).

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Unfortunately, the story of Sardi's, like many others of NYC, is best told in past tense. They have not gone out of business, but that which brought the restaurant its notoriety has gone. What's left is more of a cliche for tourists. Sardi's, located at 234 West 44th Street, is in the heart of the theater district and was an integral part of the fabric of that world since Vincent Sardi, Sr. opened the Little Restaurant at 246 W. 44th Street in 1921 - patrons referred to it as Sardi's and so the name stuck. In 1927, they moved to the current location. In 1947, management was taken over by Vincent Sardi, Jr. The restaurant is known for the hundreds of caricatures of show-business celebrities on its walls, inspired by Joe Zelli’s, a Parisian restaurant and jazz club. The Sardi's caricatures were done by Alex Gard, a Russian refugee. The stories surrounding Vincent Sardi, Jr. are legendary and speak of old New York. Sardi's became a Broadway landmark - an institution central to the theater world with actors, agents and critics utilizing it as a meeting place. Vincent loved theater and has been referred to as the "Mayor of Broadway." He was totally supportive of the theater world and was known to carry the tabs of out of work actors. Read his obituary in the New York Times (Sardi died on 1/4/07). Broadway has changed. Stephen Sondheim spoke of a dumbing down of theater and that there is no longer a Broadway community - ''There's none whatsoever. The writers write one show every two or three years. Who congregates at Sardi's? What is there to congregate about? Shows just sit in theaters and last.''

Friday, 5 October 2007

Ellis Island

It has been estimated that nearly half of all Americans can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through Ellis Island. This island, at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor, was the point of entry for over 12 million immigrants entering the United States from January 1, 1892 until November 12, 1954. There are many fascinating stories about the island, the immigrants and the immigration process at Ellis Island: the six-second physical examination, the 29 questions which were asked of newcomers, the long transatlantic journey many had to the US as third class cargo, the tragic fate of the 2% who were rejected from admission and returned to their countries of origin and the complex dispute between New York and New Jersey over the island's jurisdiction. This is an enormous subject on which much has been written - for more information try any of the following sites: the overview at Wikipedia, Ellis Island National Monument official site and an Ellis Island web site. The building itself underwent a major $160 million renovation starting in 1984. the island was reopened to the public in 1990. To visit Ellis Island is something everyone should try to do ...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Beresford

Many find the subject of architecture "boring", but as much as anything else, a great city is defined by its buildings - say the words Paris or London and images of the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Tower of London come to mind. Architecture is the crystallization in a point in time of many things - the fashion, folly, trends, inspiration and perspiration of the men and women who shaped it. To walk this city and appreciate its architecture is to live its history. So, I bring you the Beresford (named for the hotel it replaced), one of the world's most prestigious residences, as seen from Central Park. This massive three-towered edifice occupies the corner of 81st Street and Central Park West and sports three lobbies (and addresses - 211 Central Park West, 1 and 7 West 81st Street). It overlooks the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium and Central Park. The building is a masterpiece of Emory Roth, the architect with the greatest number of buildings in NYC to his credit (click here for my posting on 17 State Street with links to Roth). It is also one of the three most prestigious apartments on Manhattan's Upper West Side (all on Central Park West) along with The San Remo (also by Roth) and The Dakota. The building was completed a month prior to the stock market crash in 1929, so its early history as a luxury residence started off on rocky footing. Built in a late Italian Renaissance style, it has a rusticated limestone base, brick-clad upper floors and terra cotta trim. There are 175 Apartments on 22 Floors, a courtyard with a fountain and a garden. in design, the Beresford is executed in brick with limestone and terra cotta trim. The three towers have pyramid roofs capped with copper lanterns that are brightly lit at night. Click here for more about the building. Of course the roster of residents read like a who's who list with present and past superstars, celebrities and moguls - Jerry Seinfeld, John McEnroe, Isaac Stern, Tony Randall, Helen Gurley Brown, Beverly Sills ...

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


Isn't this amazing? This is the most remarkable garden space I have ever seen in NYC. One image does not do it justice - please click here for six more photos. All the community gardens I have been to (I have featured most of them here on this site) are wonderful spaces - true oases from the urban world. But nothing beats the 9th Street Community Garden on Avenue C for transporting one to another place; or perhaps I should say places, with its varied environments. I recently visited with a friend. Upon entering, we took a pathway through a tunnel of shrubbery which felt like an English country garden. Then we passed through a small cabana (in the photo) - it felt like a tiny country cottage. From there and out into the open much of the garden has a tropical feel, with dense foliage and plantings - I used to travel to the West Indies and this space truly made me feel like I was there again. There was barbecuing and picnicking going on in a tented area. Nearby there was a large cabana with a porch, chairs, benches, tables, a kitchen with appliances and housekeeping accouterments. I spoke with the women relaxing and expressed my awe. They confirmed my feelings that this garden was the best in NYC :) ...

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Frying Pan

There appears to be no end to ingenuity and appropriation in this city, particularly when it comes to business. The Frying Pan was unknown to me until Sunday when I photographed it on a neighborhood boat ride. This historic boat, built in 1929, was used as a lightship at Frying Pan shoals off the coast of Cape Fear in North Carolina - a notoriously hazardous area for ships (lightships or lightvessels are used in place of lighthouses where the water is too deep for a lighthouse). The Frying Pan was finally decommissioned in 1967 - it then served a number of uses at various locations until it capsized and sunk in Chesapeake Bay in 1984. The ship remained underwater until 1987, when she was raised, restored and moved to NYC's Pier 63 and docked to a Lackawanna railcar barge. The pair of ships served a number of maritime functions over the years (Manhattan Kayak Company, New York Outriggers, New York Polo and the Hudson River Paddler’s Guild). Their lease was lost in 2006 and on April 9, 2007 they relocated a few blocks north at Pier 66 (26th-27th Streets). The barge and the Frying Pan are available for rental for functions, parties, etc. Check out their website and learn more about the boat and its uses. Please note: their website is not up to date. I called this morning to confirm their location at Pier 66, which conflicts with their site ...

Monday, 1 October 2007

Lonely Clock

The Colgate Clock is not in NYC but is located in Jersey City, New Jersey on the banks of the Hudson River. Although New Yorkers complain and joke about New Jersey, it plays an important part in the city's economy, services and labor supply. The New Jersey skyline is the dominant view from Manhattan's west side with the Colgate Clock readily visible from lower Manhattan. At 50 feet in diameter, the current clock is claimed to be the largest in the world. It is a replacement for original clock (38 feet in diameter) from 1904, made by the Seth Thomas Company - it has been relocated to a Colgate factory in Clarksville, Indiana. The octagonal design was based on Colgate's Octagon Soap. The toothpaste tube was added in 1983. Read more here. The clock is the last remnant of the site of the former headquarters of the Colgate-Palmolive consumer products conglomerate. In 1985, all the buildings on the site were leveled and the entire operation was moved to Kansas and Indiana, leaving the clock alone, rather drab and dreary looking on an empty lot awaiting development ...

Photo Note: This photograph was taken on a neighborhood boat ride on the Hudson aboard the Queen of Hearts.