Finding Lightness at the World Trade Center

On a recent, sunny, crisp afternoon, I took a walk through Lower Manhattan.  I decided to head below ground to see the place where I had walked exactly 16 years and 6 days ago.  It was the old World Trade Center Plaza where I had stood in a soft rain on Sept. 10th, 2001, only to learn that the free dance performance I’d come to see had been rained out.

I then walked through the dark, claustrophobic rabbit warren of a mall that occupied the few floors just below ground, picked up a few things and went home.  I had no idea what would happen to this place only 12 hours later.

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there were seemingly endless quarrels and delays in the rebuilding process.  As a result, it happened in a piece-meal fashion.  There were some highlights- the opening of 7 World Trade Center, shiny and futuristic just a few years later.  Then there was the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building and the slow rise of 1 World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower) which finally opened in 2013.

Alongside the Freedom Tour, the bony wings of Calatrava’s “phoenix” also slowly transformed a new transit station.  Again, it was beleaguered by delays.

My walk this weekend confirmed, at least for me, that the wait was worth it.  Although the new space is largely a mall- the Westfield World Trade Center- it is also a lovely, soaring public space.  It is light-filled and white, with clean bathrooms, a myriad of food, market and retail options.  It’s soaring wings seem to protect us from the canyons of skyscrapers on all sides, and the Oculus seems to be a fitting reminder of what once stood there.

On a recent, sunny, crisp afternoon, I took a walk through Lower Manhattan.  I decided to head below ground to see the place where I had walked exactly 16 years and 6 days ago.  It was the old World Trade Center Plaza where I had stood in a soft rain on Sept. 10th, 2001, only to learn that the free dance performance I’d come to see had been rained out.

I then walked through the dark, claustrophobic rabbit warren of a mall that occupied the few floors just below ground, picked up a few things and went home.  I had no idea what would happen to this place only 12 hours later.

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there were seemingly endless quarrels and delays in the rebuilding process.  As a result, it happened in a piece-meal fashion.  There were some highlights- the opening of 7 World Trade Center, shiny and futuristic just a few years later.  Then there was the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building and the slow rise of 1 World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower) which finally opened in 2013.

Alongside the Freedom Tour, the bony wings of Calatrava’s “phoenix” also slowly transformed a new transit station.  Again, it was beleaguered by delays.

My walk this weekend confirmed, at least for me, that the wait was worth it.  Although the new space is largely a mall- the Westfield World Trade Center- it is also a lovely, soaring public space.  It is light-filled and white, with clean bathrooms, a myriad of food, market and retail options.  It’s soaring wings seem to protect us from the canyons of skyscrapers on all sides, and the Oculus seems to be a fitting reminder of what once stood there.

 

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A View from Above: an Urbanite’s Guilty Pleasure

If you have ever spent a significant amount of time in a large metropolis, you will know that there are at least three major ways to view a city: at street level; from a distance (think skyline); and from above.  While each of these vantage points have their charms, for many urbanites, a high perch from which to observe life below qualifies as a guilty pleasure.

I have lived in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, in apartments steadily rising: first at ground level; then a few floors up; later on the eleventh floor and now to an even higher floor.  I relish the view, which encompasses a wide variety of neighborhoods and landmarks.  I also appreciate the distance from the din of traffic and commerce, and the ability to see weather systems approaching and the setting sun.

Now I will share some shots with you, see if they bring you pleasure!

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Welcome, spring!

spring campus-COLLAGESpring has finally arrived in New York City.  In our northern climate, she often sneaks in slowly and flies away quickly, squeezed on either side by the more muscular New York winters and summers.

The warmer weather means a return to blogging for me, as I much prefer taking photos in the light of spring in summer.  Today I offer a haiku in celebration, and of course, a few photos.

The Bashful Tree

The pink and white tree

knows not whom she wants to be.

Spread your wings, dear tree!

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New Second Avenue Subway Stations Offer a Top Notch Art Experience for $2.75 or Less

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A few of Vik Muniz’s “characters,” or people seen riding the subway, from actual photos

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The dawn of a new year has brought considerable excitement to residents of Manhattan’s storied Upper East Side, to Q line subway  riders (myself included), to transit enthusiasts, and to admirers of public and contemporary art (me again!).

The multi-billion Second Avenue Subway project, decades in the making, opened with a bang on New Years Day 2017, debuting a reconfigured 63rd and Lexington Avenue Station, and three bright and spacious new stations at 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street and Second Avenue, all serviced by the Q train.

It’s not often that we New Yorkers feel good about our subway stations, but what I saw blew me away.  I won’t go into great detail*, as much has already been written, but will share some images of the permanent art on display.

Over the last 20+ years, commissioned public art has become much more commonplace in the City’s transit hubs.  The art is usually added to rehabilitated stations.  This time, the art and the stations where designed with each other in mind and the result is stunning!

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Sarah Sze’s monumental “Blueprint for a Landscape” at the 96th Street station

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Some of the murals and mosaics can be viewed by simply entering the stations before one reaches the turnstiles, like this one, by Chuck Close.

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To see all of the art work, one can pay only $2.75, ride up to 96th Street, and then visit each stop: 86th, 72nd and 63rd  on the way back downtown. There’s no need to pay $25 to visit a local art museum!

The slideshow below features images by Chuck Close at the 86th Street Station

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Kudos to all who worked to complete these stations.  They are worth a visit!

*For more on the history of the Second Avenue Subway: http://nyti.ms/2iGcmey

Scenes from Brooklyn’s Beach Avenues

A few unusual and colorful roads run parallel through Brooklyn’s diverse beach communities. Brooklyn’s beaches occupy a small jetty of land that runs three or four miles east to west, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Sheepshead Bay, Jamaica Bay and Coney Island Creek to the north east.

The pictures that follow were taken along Oriental Boulevard, Brighton Beach Avenue and Shore Parkway.  I hope that they capture some of the great diversity of life in these communities.

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Swans in Motion, Sheepshead Bay

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Rocks at the Seawall

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Sheepshead Bay

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Ropes by the Bay

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Track Practice, Oriental Boulevard

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Residential Manhattan Beach/Oriental Blvd

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Brighton Beach, LIttle Russia By the Sea

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Brighton Beach Avenue under the Elevated Tracks

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Brighton Beach Elevated at Sundown

 

A Tree Grows in The Bronx

Of New York City’s five boroughs, The Bronx often seems to get the short end of the stick. Brooklyn once rivaled it for grit and swagger but today has become rather like an extension of Manhattan, hip, glamorous and a burg of widening extremes. This summer I decided to make only my third trip up there to walk the borough’s grandest Avenue: the Grand Concourse.

The Concourse, designed to be a self-contained residential and commercial hub, did not disappoint.  In reading about it before my visit, I  learned that the number of Art Deco buildings still standing along the Grand Concourse is rivaled only by Miami Beach.  I also remembered that of all of New York’s boroughs, The Bronx has the most parkland and also the City’s largest park, Van Cortlandt.

My walk took me near Yankee Stadium, past three small parks, grand Art Deco government buildings and apartment houses, into the Bronx Museum of the Arts (it’s free!) and past a large shopping mall.

Trees definitely grow in the Bronx!

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Admire- Creativity

In response to the Daily Post prompt for July 30th, I immediately thought about creativity. I admire this quality because it doesn’t require money, material goods, or specialized education.  All it takes to be creative is to challenge oneself to be expressive, to solve a problem or to see something in a new light.

At the same time, social media reminded me that I was in Buenos Aires nine years ago this month.  It was my second trip to the city, the first being the year before, when the Argentine summer brought music and dance out in to the streets from noon to well past dusk.  This time it was winter, and although it was chilly and grey and the city was suffering from the great recession, creativity still managed to crop up around nearly every street corner in the city center. Here are some of my favorite photos from that trip.  The streets were alive with creativity!

The garage's neighbor.

Painted house on a commercial street

 

Puppeteer and Puppet, San Telmo.

Puppeteer and Puppet, San Telmo.

Detail of painted house

Detail of painted house

Ostrich Feather man- see lots of these.

Ostrich Feather man- see lots of these.

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Tango Band- Ciudad Baigon?

 

 

 

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Summer in the City: a Mobile Phone Photo Tour

My trusty mobile phone has recorded some of my summer adventures to date this year. They are grouped by borough, first up are images from  Manhattan, then Queens and Brooklyn.  I hope that they begin to convey the diversity of activities that New York City has to offer in the warmer months.

Performers, Rubin Museum Block Party

Performers at the Rubin Museum’s Block Party

6th Avenue Mural

A New Mural on 6th Avenue

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The Rubin Museum drew large crowds for its Block Party and open house

Dancing, Pier 45

Dancing on a Pier in the West Village

Dancing at Sundown, Long Island City

And Now Dancing in Long Island City Queens

Dancing, Long Island City, view of Chrysler and Empire State buildings

Dancers with Manhattan as a Backdrop

View of Manhattan from Long Island City, at Sundown

Sundown as seen from Long Island City

Thunderstorm looming over Queens

A Thunderstorm Looms Over Queens

BBG roses

The Rose Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Beach at Coney Island

Cooling Off at a Brooklyn Beach

July 3rd Fireworks, Coney Island

Weekend Fireworks at Coney Island

At MCU Park, Cyclones Game, Brooklyn

Americana Glore at a Brooklyn Cyclones Game

New York Aquarium, Seal Show

Enjoying a Sea Lion Show at the New York Aquarium, Coney Island

 

 

London’s Brick Lane & New York’s Lower East Side

I’m back from an invigorating week spent in London at the dawn of spring.  My first reflection on the trip attempts to capture my perception of a sense of ambition I felt throughout the city.  On my first visits there, in the mid ’90’s, I was struck most by London’s long history and its apparent veneration of that rich past.  Of course I am now 20 years older, and so is the city, so perhaps what I noticed on this visit was due to my own changes in perception.  Or, because I’m a New Yorker now and I wasn’t then, I appreciate the energy with which large cities continually reinvent themselves.

Half a day spent in the East End around Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market on a rare sunny morning first lead me to think about the city’s aspirations and to draw direct parallels to my own city, in particular the Lower East Side.

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In all four of these shots, old vs. new plays a part. The street painter’s stunning image is covering countless others that preceded it on a building that has been there for 200 years or more.  Even more ephemeral is the What if art ruled the World? scrawl just down the block, as the building itself shows signs of multiple reconfigurations.  Walking through Liverpool Street station it was clear to me that this was a place reinvented, but I did not know at the time the station had overcome 3 distinct explosions over a 60 year period.  Finally, the Jamme Masjid Mosque which resides in a building that was a church in the 18th century, a synagogue in the 19th and then became a mosque in the 20th, sends its gleaming, 21st century minaret skyward.

 

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A three-story bird painted on Brick Lane made me wonder if the artist also had worked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a neighborhood with cultural parallels to the Spitalfields area of London, and another place that seems to be constantly evolving. Both the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the East End of London are gentrifying or have gentrified, but clearly neither neighborhood has lost its spirit.

For every flashy, ultra-modern symbol of aspiration: think London’s Shard http://www.shardldn.com/wp-content/uploads/the-view-from-the-160955101.jpg

or New York’s One World Trade Center: https://www.wtc.com/about/buildings

There are countless other examples of human ambition at the individual level alive in both cities, building on what came before.  May it continue to be so, with spirit!

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