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.
On a cool, clear, fall day, I took a walk…a rather long walk. I started in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens (a county situated on the piece of land known as Long Island) and from there, proceeded on foot through areas of New York City that were for the most part new to me.
I began at the Socrates Sculpture Park– an open area on the Queens waterfront adjacent to tiny Roosevelt Island and with impressive views of Manhattan’s East Side. Unfortunately, the Park was a bit a of mess on this day because they were between installations, however, I intend to visit again someday. Here’s more on the park: http://socratessculpturepark.org/
I had time to kill after walking through the park, so I decided to head toward Roosevelt Island. This long, thin, Island is known for being residential and I pictured block after block of brick apartment buildings. I walked along the Queens waterfront to the pedestrian entrance of the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, which connects Queens, Roosevelt Island and Manhattan. Well maintained and painted an unusual red hue, the footbridge offers stunning views of the Triborough bridge just to the North, Manhattan’s midtown and Upper East Side.
What I found when I got to Roosevelt Island was a pleasant surprise. I found a rather dense village within a metropolis. A village with its own identity but also one that is also clearly part of the larger City. The installation of a community gallery inside of a large parking structure was genius, the waterfront parks charming, and the main street- literally Main Street- helped to reinforce the village feeling.
By now, my feet were getting tired, and I was ready to head toward my final destination, Central Park. I passed Roosevelt Island’s single subway station but thought it would be a waste not to continue my trip across the water rather than under it, to truly get the feeling of passing from island to island. So I walked on to the famous Roosevelt Island Tram. To my knowledge, it is New York City’s only aerial link, operating like a large ski lift. About half as long as a subway car and maybe twice as wide, one can ride from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan using their metrocard. The view, as I had hoped, was lovely. Looking down on the Hudson and Midtown is a rare treat.
When I emerged from the tram, I was in the middle of Manhattan (island # 3) at 59th Street and Second Avenue. From here, it was just another ten minute walk to Central Park. When I reached the park, it was approaching dusk, and the rising of a large harvest moon and the cooling air gave the park a slightly ominous feel. The easy-going nature of the park in summer that I had felt just a few weeks ago was gone. I sat on a bench and took two shots, one of a darkening park landscape, and the other of a piece of public art- a clock that has a rotating face and stationary hands.
My journey through three islands in a single afternoon had come to and end. I had taken in many sights and sounds, and once again, reveled in the incredible diversity of the city where I live.
On a recent warm and sunny Wednesday evening, a friend and I rode the subway to Bryant Park in Manhattan to see what “Accordions Around the World” was all about. For those that are not familiar with this small but lovely urban oasis, Bryant Park is situated in the middle of noisy, crowded Midtown Manhattan. It is improbably close to Times Square- that tourist mecca being only a five minute walk away. The park is charming nevertheless and in the warmer months buzzes with activity to entertain, motivate and re-energize New Yorkers.
On this evening, we observed men playing chess, an outdoor reading corner, cafe tables of coffee sippers and happy hour revellers. Amidst all of this, we the found musicians, accordions in hand, modestly entertaining whomever passed by from their folding chairs. They played accordions of varying sizes, shapes, colors and national origins. The music ranged from the expected fare, vaguely French or Bavarian, to classic tango (played on an accordion, not a bandoneon, although there was to be a bandoneon in the park later in the evening), to early 20th Century popular tunes and ragtime, Colombian folk music and wistful Balkan tunes. At one station, a violinist joined in to great effect.
My friend and I were not disappointed as we wound our way around the perimeter of the park, on a sort of Easter-egg hunt for accordionists. We easily wafted from one continent to another on the air of the music, enjoying this free entertainment under the shade of lovely green trees, in the heart of Manhattan.
Here are some images and sounds from Accordians Around the World on July 1st. For more on this program that takes place on Wednesdays in July and August, see:
The roster of accordionists on this particular day was:
Rob Curto – Brazilian Bluegrass
Jenny Luna – Balkan + Turkish
Erica Mancini – American Roots + Standards
Seaninho do Acordeon – Brazilian Forró
Uri Sharlin – World
Papa Bavarian – German Oktoberfest
Brooke Watkins – French Musette
Sadys Rodrigo Espitia – Colombian Cumbia + Vallenato
David Hodges – Bandoneon: Argentine Tango
Fabio Turchetti – Italian Folk
Any large metropolis worthy of the name can boast a number of industries or areas in which they are leaders on a national or international scale. New York City being the largest metropolis in a large, wealthy, and diverse country can, of course, boast of being a leader in many fields. Certainly dance would be one of these, as dancers and aspiring dancers from around the world come here to hone their craft and to chase dreams of making it big. But there is more to the local dance scene than this- there are the national and regional dances that the City’s myriad immigrants bring from home, and other dance forms that appeal tho those looking for a social or physical outlet. These traditions and styles become part of the city’s fabric and provide a means to connect with others. Perhaps no better neighborhood exists than the East Village to showcase the colors, shapes, faces and steps of more than 70 dance groups with roots stretching across the globe.
A few friends and I met, cameras in hand, to take in this year’s 9th Annual Dance Parade http://danceparade.org this weekend. It was a sea of colors and sounds and with the Village lending its own special voice to the spectacle as well.
The dancers themselves truly represented all ages, abilities and walks of life. They showcased movement and costumes from countries near and far. Even the most jaded New Yorker stopped in his or her tracks, if only for an instant, to take in the action. Some even joined in.