Monthly Archives: June 2008

Midtown East – United Nations (Jae)

The United Nations Headquarters is definitely one of the most important landmarks in New York City. Located on the right side of 1st Avenue between  East 42nd  and 48th Street,  this 18 acre land was donated by John Rockefeller Jr. in the late 1940’s, which allowed the organization to move into Manhattan. This scraped the UN’s original plan of placing its headquarters in Queens. The construction of the complex  began in 1949 with the Secretariat, followed by the General Assembly in 1952 and the Dag Hammarskjold Library in 1961.

Secretariat Designed by a group of international architects known as the UN Board of Design,
The Secretariat is the largest facility at the UN complex in New York. The construction only took 2 years to complete, and it is now home to the organization’s principal organ, known as the Secretariat. This UN department is responsible for the organization’s administrative duties.

Img_0157 The General Assembly building is where all UN member state representatives meet up and make decisions on various matters. They talk about  numerous topics that range from issues related to the UN body itself to problems that are unrecognized by the organization but still exist in today’s society. In my opinion, the coolest part of this building comes from the flags that are lined up in parallel to 1st Avenue. Representing all members of the UN, they are sorted out in alphabetical order, starting from Afghanistan and ending with Zimbabwe.  They are raised up at 8AM and lowered at 4PM.

Img_0199 As the name already implicates, the library was named after Dag Hammarskjold, the 2nd UN Secretary General from Norway. He died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961. In order to honor his dedication towards promoting world peace, in 1961 the city of New York named a park after him as well. The park is known as the Dag
Hammarskjold Plaza and it is located right across from the UN Headquarters. (On Img_0194
East 47th Street between 1st and2nd Avenue) The park nowadays is known for hosting public demonstrations. It also hosts a lot of public events since there is a non profit organization dedicated towards the park. There are a couple of exciting events planned for the park this summer such as an auto showcase on June 28th and National Night Out Against Crime on August 9th, so if anyone has time it would be an awesome experience to check it out!

If anyone wants a quick tour of the world, definitely visit the UN Headquarters. I believe that this area, including the parks around the complex, is definitely for tourists since the area has a lot of history to it. Even though the UN complex has high security measures due to the nature of hosting an intergovernmental organization, parts of the complex are open for visitors from 9:30AM to4:45PM. In addition, once inside the Visitors’ Lobby there is a guided tour available in various languages for 9 dollars. It will be a great experience to find out how nations work with each other to promote well being of the world. Moreover, there is a gift shop downstairs as well as a post office. The post office is definitely worth visiting because it has stamps that no other place in the world does. This is due to the fact that the UN complex is an international territory. For security reasons, it has its own police, fire and postal department. Lots of tourists send postcards to their families and friends with unique UN stamps, so definitely try that out as well.

For my walking tour, I also had to walk on 2nd Avenue from 47thth to 53rd Street. To be honest, this area was dead and boring. The area only had residential buildings without any landmarks. So for future reference to whoever wants a tour around this area, do NOT go there.
  

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Take a trip through Tompkins Square Park (Vinay Krishnan)

    At first glance, Tompkins Square Park may not seem as impressive or important as Central Park, Madison Square Park, or some of the other larger grounds in the city, but the area is rich with unique culture, history, and tradition and offers some interesting sights and experiences for both locals and visitors.

Some History

The park is located in the Alphabet City between Avenues A
and B and between East 7th and East 10th Street.  It was named after Daniel D. Tompkins, the governor of NY from 1807
to 1817 and the VP of the U.S. under President Monroe.

Riots of 1874:
several thousand unemployed workers rallied in the park to demand employment
opportunities. Police used brutal force
to break up the demonstration and were heavily criticized for their actions.

Riots of 1988:
police repeatedly clashed with the many homeless and violent youth who
dominated the park at the time. The police were again criticized for their use
of force and were blamed for inciting riots

The Park Today

    Dog Runs

The park is famous for its big and little dog runs, two fenced
off playing grounds for the animals. Each Halloween, the park hosts a parade in which a
few hundred costumed dogs gather and are awarded prizes in various categories,
such as Best Costume, Best Dog and Owner Combo, and Best Dog With Kid.
According to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreations, it is the largest, non-competitive gathering
of dog owners in the country.  Take a look at some of these pictures of the event.  You can click for a full size image.

  Dog_parade_211_bumble_dog                                                                                                                                           

11_nacho_libre_dog
05_cherokee_dog
29_pig_dog

 

Monuments

Dscf0887

Temperance Statue: a
gift from the rags-to-riches dentist Henry D. Cogswell in
1888.
The fountain was created to dispense free water to discourage the
drinking of alcohol. A statue of Hebe, the mythical water carrier, stands at
the center of the structure, and the four sides of the stone canopy above it
are engraved with the words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Temperance.

Trees
Hare Krishna Tree:
a large elm tree and important religious site for believers of the Hare Krishna
faith. The religion was founded in the U.S. during a chanting session under the tree in 1966.

 

Slocum
General Slocum
Memorial: in memory of the General Slocum steamship disaster that killed
over a thousand people in the East River in
1904.

 

Summer Events

   2nd Annual
New Village Music Festival:  June 14th (Free)

It was created last year as a free concert for the community to
celebrate music and culture, promote young local artists, and support local
music and performance arts programs that provide children with an alternative
to drugs and alcohol.  Several different musical genres are featured, such as Reggae, Latin
Rock, Afro Caribbean Soul, Acoustic Pop Rock and Soul, Hip Hop, and Haitian
Dominican Roots Music.

    Cracktöberfest:  August 2nd, 3rd (Free)

This is a punk rock concert held every year to
mark the anniversary of the the Tompkins Square Square Riots of 1988.
This year will be the 20th anniversary of the events.

    Charlie Parker Jazz Festival:  August 24th at 3 p.m (Free)

Parker helped develop the Bebop jazz form and
was arguably the most influential jazz saxophonists of all time. The event involves performances from several
different jazz artists and celebrates the time Parker spent in the East Village.

    Howl Festival: September 5 – 7 (Free)

The celebration takes its name from Howl, the famous Allen Ginsberg poem
that is considered to be one of the most significant works of the Beat
Generation, a group of prominent American writers in the 1950’s and 1960’s who
celebrated personal release, spiritual exploration, and a sensory existence of drugs, sex, and music. Largely condemned by both critics and the
public, the writers found strong support in the East Village,
and the festival was created in 2002 to honor the counter-cultural history of
the area.

Some notable events during the festival are Art Around the Park, a gathering of
about 140 artists to paint on a giant canvass that will stretch around the
park’s perimeter, and Wigstock, an outdoor drag queen festival. There are also several book fairs, dances, and poetry readings.

 

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In the Hub of Chelsea (Guest Blogger: Linda Peng)

 For the unenlightened visitor, Chelsea is certainly a neighborhood of surprises. Walking into it from the flowery
commercialized areas of Union Square
or Madison Square Park, one suspects little of the
historical landmarks, cultural centers, or the one peaceful zone hidden in
plain sight of the neighborhood. The area of Chelsea
that I ventured into – a maze of paths between 20th and 23rd streets
that starts from Seventh Avenue and ends at the Hudson
River – boasts a diversity that, considering the city that it
belongs to, should actually not be so surprising after all.

Dscf2082

        My first foray into the
neighborhood gave me an impression of industry and business different from the
commercialization around well-known landmarks such as Union Square or Times Square.
Like many city blocks in New York,
the surrounding areas of W 24th Street
boasted a mall of services: a Vietnamese restaurant, a saloon, and a Citibank
were just a few of the places I saw offering a selection of necessities. The
lack of flashing signs and tall glass buildings, however, distinguished this
area from a prominent tourist area. Most of the buildings were brick and
brownstone: they were still tall, with at least 10 floors, but notably less
modernized. If it were not for my closer inspection of the Chelsea
Hotel and the two English tourists
I spotted, the significance of the neighborhood as a tourist destination in its
own right might have entirely escaped my notice.

        My discoveries of Chelsea’s
gems, however, were yet to begin. Past the Chelsea
Hotel (about which more later) and
turning left onto Ninth Avenue,
I was noting but ignoring the famed brainchild of Henry Mandel, the tall brick London
Terrace apartment complexes that continued down W 23rd
  street. Instead, I was venturing into 22nd
  street; seeing the Millionaire’s Row brownstones
on my left and the brick-red townhouses on my right proved to be a worthy
visual alternative, because that was the moment I entered a garden.

Dscf2092        I suppose my wonder at that experience
cannot truly be described by words; it must be described by the audio and
visual contrasts that engulfed my senses. Behind me was the extremely wide and
busy Ninth Avenue,
crisscrossed by honking cars and the visual spectrum of yellow taxis and view-engulfing
buses. In front of me was a quiet alley of organized houses and mini gardens,
one planted on either side of the sidewalk. The decorations on the side of the
private apartments were always unique – some featured flowers, some didn’t – but on the side of the sidewalk near the street, small-sized elm trees sprouted
within ten feet of each other. They shared the soil with tiny magnolias and
small black fences. A sign on some of the fences declared that no dogs were
allowed in the small square “garden.”

The chirping of birds drowned out
the noise of the traffic behind me, and the level white pavestones of the
sidewalk and the neatly corralled black fences suddenly reminded me of the curious
“no bicycles” sign I had acknowledged upon entering the street. I realized that
this neighborhood must be very unique. I understood it when I reached the
resident-friendly Clement Clark Moore Park,
a playground area sequestered neatly at the end of the block before the
invisible border of traffic-congested Tenth Avenue.

Dscf2098        A descriptive letter sealed in
glass at the entrance of the park gave me all the information I needed to know:
the 20th-21st-22nd streets between 9th
and 10th Avenues, I read, are collectively known as the West 400
Block Association. Founded in 1952, the organization is not only the oldest
continuing block association in NYC, but it also provides a way for the
residents of the neighborhood to voice their concerns
about making Chelsea a
“better place to live” in a proven format. With meetings held twice a year and
annual membership dues being $10/household, the Association was able to
spearhead the construction of the Clement Clarke Moore Park  in 1968, as well as the arrangements in 1995 that a gate should be built around
it and locked by a local resident every night.

        The neighborhood seems to show its
commitment to tolerance and public maintenance in other ways as well. Chelsea is the home to not only multiple Jewish synagogues (the most notable one being
the Congregation Emunath Israel on W 23rd Street),
it also the site of the General Theological Seminary, the oldest Episcopal
Church in the United States. A vibrant
LGBTQ-friendly community also exists here, a fact that is supported by the
existence of multiple proudly displayed rainbow-colored flags on some of the
buildings. The moving of many art galleries from SoHo to
Chelsea starting in the 1990s also
transformed the neighborhood into the new thriving center for art.

Dscf2118
        Continuing down W 20th street towards the Hudson
River, I noted again the stark contrast between the West 400 Block
Association community to the street just up ahead, a street whose urban-style
parking garage on the corner seemed completely out-of-line with the quiet
neighborhood I had just sauntered past.

        Chelsea seems to have a remarkable strength of adaptability: within the loud secular
streets of 10th and 11th avenues, I knew, were some of
the newest art galleries, and straight up ahead was the famed Chelsea Piers
Sports & Entertainment Complex. The fours piers that made up the Complex
used to invite ship such as the Titanic to its harbor, but when the
1960s saw changes in transportation methods the piers transformed themselves
into a hotspot of multiple entertainment offerings.

Dscf2124

        Perhaps the fact that the Chelsea Hotel (which at one point housed
some of the survivors of the Titanic) is the home of some very famous
songwriters, authors, poets, filmmakers, and artists should not be surprising.
With the diversity of its residents and their determination to uphold the value
of their neighborhood, the successes of some of the many creative thinkers of
the Chelsea Hotel
does not lack for an explanation: there was inspiration. 



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Inside the gates of Gramercy Park with Claire

     Gramercy Park is not exactly the most happening place in the city—if you want excitement, the park pales in comparison to Times Square, for shopping Soho can’t be beat—but I could honestly say that it’s one of the most tranquil places in Manhattan. In fact, it’s almost oppressively tranquil: all the street traffic fades away as you approach the tiny little fenced in area, leaving you in a state of relative silence and solitude, stripping away the comfortable crowds of the rest of the city. The type of people noticeably changes as you get close to the park, as well. Gone are the more eccentric city dwellers, the hipsters and the rowdy school kids, and instead you are faced with a pastel army of J. Crew sporting, dog-walking thirtysomethings. Most don’t even go into the park—they seem content just walking in circles around it, ambling slowly along with their Labradors and strollers.
    The park itself is certainly worth seeing: the lawns are as well-manicured as a golf course, the flowers are impeccably attended and in full bloom, children in fairy costumes run around laughing as their parents watch from the gleaming benches. Of course, you have to observe this all through the heavy wrought-iron gates, as Gramercy Park is a private park and you need a key to get in. Seeing the park, it is understandable how additional private parks would be an impossibility. New Yorkers flock to the open green spaces, to Central Park and Washington Square; parks have established a reputation of being democratic spaces in which anyone and everyone is welcome. All of which leads to a very vibrant park culture that inspires improptu concerts and chess games. Imagine if you put a gate around Washington Square Park—first, the people would probably revolt, and second, all of the characters that make the park a fun place to go would be gone! Which explains the heavy tranquility of the Gramercy Park area.
    Being a swanky neighborhood does draw some interesting (famous!) types to the area, however. The main example of this is the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was the site of the launch party for Sienna Miller’s new clothing line, and where Lindsay Lohan and the Olsens have been known to party. It wasn’t always such a hot spot, however. Historically, it was frequented by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and John F. Kennedy Jr. (he lived there when he was 11), but the clientele was more old ladies and tourists until recently. In 2005, the hotel underwent a complete makeover, in which Ian Schraeger, a sort of playboy hotel wunderkind, gutted the entire building. In place of the dowdy bar and tattered furniture he put unique, boutique-style chairs and famous modern art. As you walk in, you are confronted with Warhols and Picassos (real ones!)—and that’s just the lobby! Of course, you are also confronted with a fleet of curious looking hotel personnel, so you may be tempted to leave immediately instead of giving the lobby the thorough inspection it deserves.   
    Overall, Gramercy Park is an unbeatable spot to visit if you are craving a respite from the noise and motion of the city. And, if the silence proves too much for you, the typical bustle of the city is only a couple of blocks away. 

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Guest Blogger- Beatrice Crosti

Central Park West.

Central Park West is a wide avenue lined by the park on one side, and by beautiful residential buildings on the other. As I walked towards it from 81st street I was impressed by the quiet that surrounds the neighborhood, that is at least until one gets to the American Museum of Natural Sciences, which is surrounded by groups of tourists, school tours and families and a surprising amount of children. Indeed, there are two types of people that I saw walking down the avenue, either the typical tourist, or the nanny bringing home children from school. I took the walking tour around four pm which would explain this latter presence.

            There is a ban against the building of commercial enterprises in the neighborhood, which allows for two types of buildings that align the street: high-class residential mansions, and even larger institutional buildings, of which there are two: the

American

Museum

of Natural History, and the New York Historical Society.

            The

American

Museum

of Natural History, the most prominent building of the promenade from 81st to

67th street

, was founded in 1869. The complex is enormous covering a whole block, and with 46 permanent exhibition halls. From Central Park West, the most prominent feature is the large Roman entrance with a

New York

State

memorial to Theodore Roosevelt built by John Russell Pope in 1936. It shows

Roosevelt

on a horse lead by an Indian and an African American. The statue is probably the most politically incorrect statue I have ever seen.

            I loved the New York Historical Society, because of the presence of

Hudson River

school paintings. They now have on view the famous series The Course of the Empire by Thomas Cole. These are five impressive landscapes depicting the vicissitudes of an fictional city from its rise to its destruction. There is also a humorous exhibition on La Fayette, which figures a real guillotine. 

            Without my guidebook, I would never have thought to look closely at the big buildings along the road, but actually they are interesting in design. The typical type of building along the avenue has two towers. This was created in response to a ban that did not allow big skyscrapers to be built without letting in enough space for the sun. Two high towers is a good solution, as it manages to include more apartments without blocking the sun from the street.

The first building on

81st street

is the Beresford. It is one of the largest apartment buildings of

New York

, and has three towers rather than two. This is an ingenious device that hides the great bulk of the building. It’s architect, Emory Roth, also built the

San Remo

which is a couple of blocks down. Construction began on the

San Remo

in 1929 as the Beresford was being completed. That year the city enacted its Multiple Dwelling Act and that law allowed residential buildings of greater height than previously permitted in exchange for larger courts and yards. Roth’s design met with the new law’s requirements that towers not exceed 20 percent of the site and be setback 70 feet on all sides.

The Dakota is also a couple of blocks down. It is famous in popular history for being the location where John Lennon was murdered. It was commissioned by Edward Clark in 1880, and named because of his fondness with the names of the newly discovered territories. However, many believe that it was called the Dakota, because it was built in the

Upper West Side

, in an area so scarcely populated at the time that it was considered as far away as the Dakota territories. It even has a memorial to John Lennon right in front of it. Every year Yoko Ono, who still lives in the building makes a public procession to the memorial in memory of her husband.

The walk is topped off between 66th and

65th street

with the Ghost Busters building that is actually as sinister as it is in the movie. The façade is spiked with black iron points and the building goes straight up and has a turret which is also sprinkled with spikes. I liked the walk a lot more than I thought I would. If one ever is going to visit the Natural History Museum this is a short walk down a peaceful neighborhood. Also, the sheer monumentality of the buildings makes them fun to walk into.

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HARLEM

Just being in New
York you’ll notice and understand why it is the fashion capital of United States.
Style is extraordinarily important in the city and Harlem has its own very distinct and unique style. 100_1149To match the personality of its
inhabitants the clothing here is loud, and consists of vibrant colors and designs.
Accessories are a must have and the most popular of which are shoes. You’ll see
that they come in all colors and designs because they must match your outfit in
order to be considered fashionable. Hair maintenance is also highly favored in Harlem; there are barbershops on every street and women
are highly encouraged to style their hair according to the latest fashions. However,
just like the movies there is a very social aspect to the barbershop, walking
by you’ll see more people inside socializing then actually getting their hair
done- further emphasizing the sense of community in the area.

In
accordance with the rest of the city, walking down the streets of Harlem you
will definitely see a lot of vendors on the street in Harlem.
There are people here selling everything from earrings to bootleg movies and
CDs and you are bound to be approached by at least five people in just one
street. The interesting fact about these vendors is that there is never a set
price in particular for any of the items that they plan to sell. The idea is
that the purchaser will have a price in mind for what they want to pay for the
product and the two will engage in a bartering process. It is a skill that is absolutely
necessary to survive in the city especially Harlem.
There are many techniques and methods to the craft but finding the one the
works best for you is the trick!

Harlem has a strong
sense of community and you will find evidence of this everywhere. You can’t go
a block without seeing a wall painted with a mural acknowledging the pride that
these people have for their neighborhood and the history that100_1134 accompanies it.
Many of the murals reference the struggles that they have overcome and there
are also many that simply exhibit beautifully stunning African American art.
Another thing that you will notice in this part of Manhattan is that the advertisements and all
the stores cater to the type of life experiences that are typical to African
Americans, which is very different from the rest of the world. In the rest of
the world advertisements and other things cater to the racial majority,
Caucasians. So it is very interesting to walk into clothing stores and see that
the mannequins were black and that the advertisements on billboards displayed
positive images of African Americans. For example, in the African American
community the people are more comfortable and accepting of different body types
and people of all shapes and sizes. You will see this theme replicated all over Harlem with signs promoting “real women
sizes,” which is a stark difference from the
stick thin models and100_1131_2 advertisements
that we are used to.

Even
though Harlem is a largely Baptist community
you will find that there are a wide variety of churches in the area. Everything
from Mormon belief churches to Nation of Islam temples are present in this neighborhood
and you can’t walk down a street without passing by at least three churches. So
if you are in Harlem and you want to go to a place of worship
there are plenty of options waiting there for you. One
of the major attractions of Harlem is the
Apollo Theater, which is famous for the number of artists that have made their
start there. For instance, James Brown and Gladys Knight made their 100_1152start at
the Apollo Theater. I remember watching the show every Saturday night to see
many aspiring artists try their luck at performing at this venue. You can find
the Apollo Theater on 253 West 125th
  Street and it is a wonderfully persevered part of Harlem’s history. You can go in and take a tour of the
facilities for just eighteen dollars and experience the magical place where
many got their start in the music industry. Another place to visit is Marcus Garvey Park which is in a
beautiful location near a small neighborhood of fabulous brownstone houses on
Park West.

-Gabi Delva

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Sunday in the Park with Holly (Guest Blogger: Holly Little)

Since the early stages of its development beginning in 1853, Central Park’s appeal as a place to not only connect with and enjoy nature in the midst of a sea of concrete but also, as a place to enjoy a vast array of recreational activity has increased tremendously. Today, there’s a new activity, attraction, or event to be found around every bend, providing a remedy to the needs of people of all types. One of the best things about Central park is that no matter what time of year it is, there will always be a reason to go there. Whether it’s programming that can be experienced year round, or something exclusive to a certain season, Central Park will never be found without adventures in store.
Sometimes the bustle of Central Park can be a little overwhelming though. That can seem to be an odd thought considering the idea that the park is like a haven to the people inhabiting or visiting New York from the even more overwhelming bustle of the city. To cope with the seemingly endless options though, I suggest seeing Central Park one part at a time. My walking tour was a great introduction to the areas lying between 81st and 72nd streets, passing many of the attractions that hold some of the exciting summer activities we can all take part in….

Delacorte Theater: Shakespeare in the Park: Hamlet, May 27 until June 29, and Hair, from July 22 until August 17
Great Lawn: New York Philharmonic on June 24 and of course a lot of room for soaking up the sun and fields for baseball and softball
Swedish Cottage: Marionette Theater
Belvedere Castle: Nature Observatory, and a beautiful view of the park (according to my walking tour this is the highest point in Central park)
Boat Pond/ Conservatory Water: Rent a little remote control sailboat!
The Lake and Loeb Boathouse: Great food, rent a boat, take a gondola ride, or rent a bike

The northern and southern ends of the park also have a lot to offer in the summer:
North
Lastker Pool
Harlem Meer (Summer Performance Series)
Conservatory Gardens
A Clearing in the Forest
North Meadow Recreation Center

South
SummerStage – http://summerstage.org
Victorian Gardens (Mini-Amusement Park)
Two Zoos
Carousel

Then there are of course carriage rides, tours, almost any sport that could be imagined and plenty of food and sporadic musicians and other types of entertainers.
Observing the variety of individuals that take up residence in Central Park for an hour or two during the day can be quite entertaining. One can find musicians, couples, families, children, groups of mom’s with all their strollers, artists, live statues, massage therapists, sales people, and many more enjoy this get away in the middle of the city. Central Park is home to many, and has a never-ending supply of things to do no matter what one’s ideal park experience may be.
Enhance your Central Park experience even more by visiting these websites…
http://centralpark.com
http://centralparknyc.org
http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/secretcentralpark/secretcentral.html

or the Dairy (Central Park’s visitors center and gift shop)!

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