A Grand Reservoir ~ A Legacy Lives On

Whoever invented the reservoir must have done it with him alone in mind. It was without flaw, a perfect lake set in the most unexpected of locations.*

There are quite a few excellent spots in New York from where you can take in a panoramic view of the city. They are mostly from high above – from a rooftop, or a viewing platform; from a bridge, or even from Manhattan’s High Line. There is only one place that I know of however, on ground level, where you can take in beautiful skyline views of the city. It is in Central Park, along the fringes of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

At the Reservoir on its West side, looking at Manhattan’s Midtown

The Reservoir can be accessed by a number of the Park’s entrances including those near 86th and 96th streets, from either the Central Park West or Fifth Avenue sides. Taking a subway to these entry points is easy, as there are a few stations located within easy walking distance of them. Strolling along any one the Park’s meandering walkways,  even over an ornate bridge perhaps, it won’t take much time at all to come face to face with an expansive body of water. Enclosed by a black, four foot high, steel and cast iron ornamental fence and encircled with a narrow dirt track – this is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

A West Side entrance

Bridge close by Central Park West’s 96th Street Entrance

Looking towards the southern point of midtown, and the Chrysler is there… somewhere…

From the South, looking West at The Eldorado Apartments

Midtown and Upper Manhattan vistas wrap around the western, southern and eastern edges of the water’s expanse; prominent buildings look miniature from across the lake (the Guggenheim – so tiny!) and on a good day, the sun sets behind a silhouetted skyline. I don’t venture to Central Park often enough, though when I do, viewing New York City from such gorgeous perspectives makes it really worthwhile.

Gorgeous (model of a) Guggenheim on the East side

Silhouetted Skyline

Twilight, ducks and The Guggenheim (far right)

Grasses and sunset

I’ve been living in New York, on and off, for about six years and only recently learned that in 1994, the reservoir was dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; it was “renamed for the beloved first lady who lived nearby and often enjoyed a run along the 1 1/2-mile jogging track that circles the water.”[2] Initially, this massive pool of water was named the Central Park Reservoir, built in 1862.

Spanning 106 acres, covering approximately an eighth of the Park and with the ability to hold over a billion gallons of water, the Reservoir was built to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct and distribute it around Manhattan.

The reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. At the time, it was unthinkable that a billion gallons of water would last less than two weeks. Today, some speculate that the City would go through that supply in just four hours. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete because of the Third Water Tunnel.[3]

The Reservoir still distributes water to other Central Park locations, such as the Pool, the Loch, and the Harlem Meer, and also serves a dual-purpose: as a meditative lake and scenic running track.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today cut the ribbon to open the renovated 1.58-mile running track around Central Park‘s Reservoir. The renovations, made possible by a $500,000 gift from the Goldie-Anna Charitable Trust, replaced the track’s gravel and timber lining, and completely overhauled its drainage system. The renovations, the first since the Track initially opened in 1982, will be maintained with a $2 million grant from the Uris Brothers Foundation.[4]

In April 2010, the jogging track was dedicated to a man named Alberto Arroyo. Known as the Mayor of Central Park by the path’s regular patrons, Arroyo claimed to be the first person to jog around the reservoir, since 1937.

Alberto Arroyo was there every day, and when he retired he was often there the entire day, waving and saying hello to everyone. When he couldn’t run, he walked. Then he used a cane, then a walker, and finally, after a stroke, a wheelchair. Arroyo died last month <March 2010> at 94.[5]

This pathway is also extremely popular with walkers, tourists, photographers, and the neighbourhood’s residents, where the lake makes up a large part of their glorious backyard. Signage requests that no strollers, bikes or dogs be taken on the track. Rightly so as the pathway is way to narrow to cater to everyone (and their mess)!

Photographers and walkers

There is also the track’s protocol of going with the flow; if going against traffic (i.e., clockwise) you may be faced with dozens of shocked faces and disgruntled looks. This park etiquette however, seems to work well. One just needs to be street smart if constantly stopping and starting – whether it is to soak in the view at different vantage points, or gaze at the ducks on the water’s surface, or to take a multitude of photos – as the path attracts some pretty swift runners. Apparently, in spring, cherry blossoms bloom along the pathway too. Can you imagine how beautiful such a setting would look?

An eastern perspective, and ducks

The Reservoir is also a lovely pit-stop during a weekend of museum hopping; after visiting The Met and/or The Guggenheim on the East Side, it would be a shame not to take a breather and stroll by the lake to say, the American Museum of Natural History, located at 81st Street and Central Park West on the other side.

In any kind of weather, the Reservoir’s space seduces. It’s such a calm place for the contemplative soul; an oasis for the stressed out New Yorker; a perfect viewing spot for the traveler; and, a romantic setting for a date. By day, Manhattan is characterised by its skyscraper skyline; by night, the beautiful lampposts light up the area and transport you to a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in Paris.

It’s another reason that gives New York its edge and character.

Good night…

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Six (Rain)… and Thank You to…

Recently I came across a quote by Paulo Coehlo that resonated with me, for its literal and figurative meanings. Not one who finds it easy to find inspiration on dark and rainy days, this quote may just alter my previous way of thinking. It motivated me to curate Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Six (Rain).

I’d also like to dedicate this post to fellow bloggers, My thoughts, pics and personal opinions and thoughts and rainstorms. Both nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award – thank you! These two wonderful blogs make me smile, laugh and inspire with their words and insights. As I recently posted on receiving The Versatile Blogger Award from Victor Ho, I thought I’d spread the love by sharing a selection of inspiring quotes and images – many of the photographs taken by very talented and well traveled photographers in the blogosphere. I hope you check out all of these blog links!

Enjoy!

“If we only walk on sunny days, we’ll never reach our destination.” Paulo Coehlo

Rainy Day in Venice ~ Photograph by Jim Richardson via Nat Geo

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kyoto, Japan ~ Photograph via Jonathan Fleming's Blog

Blog: Jonathan Fleming

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.” Louis L’Amour

Rainy Day at Bangkok's Wat Pho ~ Photograph via Tricia A. Mitchell

Blog: Tricia A. Mitchell.

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” Jim Rohn

M.Barre's Carousel 1955 ~ Photograph by Robert Doisneau

“Everything is as it was, I discover when I reach my destination, and everything has changed.” Michael Frayn  

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Liberty Square, Taiwan ~ Photograph via AsianinAsia

Blog: An Asian in Asia

“. . .the grand tour is just the inspired man's way of heading home.” Paul Theroux

The man and the sea, Wellington, NZ ~ Photograph via alicia scott photographer

Blog: alicia scott photographer

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Bokeh in the rain, Brooklyn, NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“It is of course the nature of historical contraction that the shortest distance to a historical destination is never a straight line.” Ibrahim Babangida

Kyoto in Black and White ~ Photograph via Jonathan Fleming's Blog

Blog: Jonathan Fleming

“Follow what you are genuinely passionate about and let that guide you to your destination.” Diane Sawyer

Notre Dame in the Rain ~ Photograph by Matt Naas via NatGeo

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” Christopher Columbus

Caught in the Rain, Day 9 in Japan ~ Photograph via Japan in 365 Days

Blog: Japan in 365 Days

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard

Tram passing the Kremlin on a rainy day, Moscow, 1956 ~ Photograph by Lisa Larsen

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Five (Sundays)

It’s Sunday and it feels like it was last Sunday, yesterday.
Before I know it, Christmas will be here, then New Year’s Day (both of which fall on a Sunday)…. 2012 will have started and 2011’s Sundays will be those of yesteryear!

Without getting caught up in the stress of it all, here’s to taking a step back… and enjoying every moment.

“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

Owl, Netherlands ~ Photograph by Robin Utrecht

Image source

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao ~ Photograph by Albert Perpinya

Image source

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville

Trees, Lithuania ~ Photograph by Matas Juras

Image source

“Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars. ”  Jack Kerouac

Eiffel Tower, Paris ~ Photograph by Rick Wianecki

 Image source

“Imagine.” John Lennon

Baobab Trees, Madagascar ~ Photograph by Pascal Maitre

Image source

“Be present – it is the only moment that matters.” Peaceful Warrior

The Astor Court, The Met, NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Flower, Spain ~Photograph by Brendan Comey

Image source

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Prayer Wheels, Tibet ~ Photograph by Ray Chong

Image source

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” Rosalia de Castro

Steps from Wagner Cove, Central Park NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
Paul Theroux

Door, Seville ~ Photograph by Wenjie Zhang

Image source

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

Polar Bear Vs. Ship, Norway ~ Photograph by Michael Nolan

Image source

 

Central Park Reflections… with a little help from John Lennon

Today I ventured uptown from Brooklyn (gasp!) to visit Central Park for a couple of reasons. I was scared that I’d miss the chance to stroll the park’s beautiful walkways before the onset of winter, which has been fashionably late in making its appearance this year. And, I wanted to take some practice shots of the park’s remaining autumnal foliage. Who knows when I’d have the opportunity to experience Central Park during such an extended fall season again?

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” John Lennon

I had set out without a route in mind, which has become my preferred way of exploring ever since I came into possession of my Nikon. Photographing the details has helped to lead the way. Not only did I come across monuments that I’d never seen before, but I’d also managed to photograph some of the park’s most beautiful vistas along the way. More surprisingly, and perhaps even serendipitous due to my new-found appreciation for spontaneity, I walked into a crowd of fans paying tribute to one of the most loved songwriters and singers of our time.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Central's Park Lake and Boathouse (background)

Like many parks found in the larger cities of the world – think Hype Park in London and Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris – Central Park is akin to an oasis. Located in the middle of an otherwise built up urban grid, the park brings about a sense of peace as soon as you step within its perimeter. Never mind the thousands of residents and tourists who descend upon it on any given day – whether it be for relaxation, to visit its Zoo or to skate the Wollman Rink – there are parts you will come across, where you’ll feel as if you’re the only one there.

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” John Lennon

Set across 843 acres (3.41 km2) of land, running the length of 59th Street to 110th Street and spanning a width measured from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West, the Park is ‘America’s first and foremost major urban public space’[1]. Having won a design competition, Central Park was based on plans drawn up by landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calbert Vaux in 1858 (they are also the minds behind Brooklyn’s Prospect Park).

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” John Lennon

Surface reflections

A labyrinth of winding pathways, meadows, bridges and gently undulating hills, Central Park takes a good few hours to enjoy, at the least. I found myself stopping and starting – to pause in front of a monument, here; or to ponder one of the park’s many plaque dedications mounted on its benches, over there.

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” John Lennon

Plaque dedication

Benches

A major discovery for me was the Literary Walk, punctuated with huge monuments including those of the celebrated poet and playwright Shakespeare, Scottish poet Robert Burns… and for some reason Christopher Columbus. From here, the pathway continues to the adjoining Mall. Though I had never witnessed this part of the park’s literary influence, I am familiar with The Mall, and it is no small wonder why it is the most photographed part of the park. The towering elm trees line a promenade along both its sides that visually makes for a dramatic lead up to a set of steps that descend toward the beautiful Bethesda Fountain.

“Living is easy with eyes closed.” John Lennon

Shakespeare in the Park

The Mall

The Park hasn’t always enjoyed as much fanfare as it does nowadays. In the 1970’s, the Park experienced a severe decline as “years of poor management and inadequate maintenance had turned a masterpiece of landscape architecture into a virtual dustbowl by day and a danger zone by night.”[2] Crime ridden, littered and a hotbed for graffiti, Central Park was hardly a respite from the Big City despite its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1963. In testament to the New York spirit, a ‘group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders’[3] rallied together and in founded The Central Park Conservancy in 1980. Together with the City of New York they work towards a common goal:

to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations[4].

Stairwell artwork (leading to Bethesda Fountain). The stonework on this particular balustrade represents winter, old age, evening

It was at the Bow Bridge, one of the Park’s five original cast-iron bridges, where I photographed some beautiful landscapes from its many vantage points. Carefully tended to by Conservancy crews, the space thrives with trees, shrubs and flowers, and encompasses views of the green roofed Boathouse to the East; weeping willows, whose yellow leaves glistened in the late afternoon sun, to the South; bare sycamore trees like stick drawings fringe the Park to the North and the West, their outlines further accentuated by the tall buildings of Central Park West that stoically stand behind them. Water grasses, Common reeds and ducks adorned the expansive Lake, its rippled surface coloured by the reflection of the yellow and orange leafed trees along its banks.

“Love is like a flower-you’ve got to let it grow.” John Lennon

The Boathouse

The Bow Bridge

After what seemed like five minutes, but more realistically a span of two hours, the sun had started to set as I made my way towards the 72nd street exit. Here is also the location of Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic memorial – dedicated to the late John Lennon by Yoko Ono. As the area is frequented by visitors and fans, who only pause momentarily to pay respects, I hadn’t expected to walk in on a crowd of people blocking the way and singing Beatles tunes in unison. Unbeknown to me at that moment, I came to learn that it was the 31st anniversary of John Lennon’s passing. As has been customary every year since that fateful day in 1980, fans were gathered around the mosaic – that had been covered in flowers, candles, momentos and messages – guitars in hand, playing to the tunes of ‘Imagine’ and ‘Come Together’. It was a touching dedication to a much loved icon, “known for his social activism and anti-war rhetoric. He was a praised figure, full of wit and wisdom”[5], and I am glad to have been a small part of the celebratory gathering. (As I sing out of tune, I thought it unfair to participate and simply enjoyed the scene and took some photos).

“Now that John’s a spirit, he has a different effect on people than when he was alive.” Yoko Ono[6]

Fans gathered

'Imagine' mosaic, adorned

In a city that never sleeps and is ever changing, Central Park is undoubtedly a product of its surroundings. It has gone through its ups and downs, and the Conservancy has ensured its maintenance as a must see public landmark. Just as I always seem to stumble upon something unexpected in any of New York’s five boroughs, the same can be said for the Park – a borough unto its own. These days, paying attention to the details paves the way toward my new discoveries, and I have my camera to thank in large part for that. Today, I came away from Central Park with a completely new appreciation for the space. I can’t wait to go back there in Spring, to explore the Park further and to experience the foliage as it changes with the season.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon


[1] http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/ [2] Blonsky, Douglas. “Saving the Park: a key to NYC’s revival”. The New York Post, 3 November 2007 Op-Ed page [3]http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/ [4] ibid [5] http://www.ibtimes.com [6] ibid

Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line

Manhattan lives up to its hype. It works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, seemingly without a break. It’s where things happen; the world’s muse. Its avenues are well-trodden; the roads are in continual need of repair. It is where the hot dog+pretzel stand is about as ubiquitous as the yellow cab. Being a walking city, sometimes all of this hubbub just gets too much to deal with on a daily basis. The creation of Manhattan’s High Line is a bit of genius in the city that never sleeps. It’s a respite from the city down there, where one can peacefully observe the hustle and bustle from up top.

The High Line

The Standard Hotel

Elevated city view

I first read about the High Line in a travel magazine a few years ago and recall thinking what a great idea it was to reclaim something old and make it new again. In this case, preserving 30 foot high abandoned railway tracks and converting them into a usable public green space – now called the High Line. Facing demolition in 1999, a community group was formed – Friends of the High Line – and came to the rescue with the High Line proposition. Thankfully, the project was approved by the City of New York – the results of which we are able to enjoy today.

The Standard Hotel

Autumnal colours against the Hudson

Birch trees and grass

The park has opened in two phases since 2009. The first phase spans the area between the Meatpacking District (Gansevoort Street) and up to 20th Street. Phase two opened this year (2011), and furthers the walkway to 30th Street. The final phase, between 30th and 34th streets, called High Line at the West Side Rail Yards, has received commitment for development and plans are underway for its construction. Such is the significance of this project that in October 2011, the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation (founded by the fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, and her husband, Barry Diller) made a $20 million commitment to the High Line. This is the largest single private contribution to a public park in New York City’s history and will be put towards this final stretch of the project.

Factories and warehouses hug the High Line

Undercover windows

Fragments of the past

In a city where it may seem inconceivable to find space for more high rise developments, the Standard Hotel and quite a few condominiums have found a home by the High Line. Juxtaposed against the factories standing reminiscent of the West Side’s meatpacking and industrial days (some converted into luxury apartments), they make for an interesting design mix given their very different and even futuristic-looking exteriors. With the added vista of the Hudson River to one side, and city views from other vantage points – here, you’ve got a pretty good stake in New York real estate, complete with a 1.45 mile long garden.

Frank Gehry's IAC building (left); condos (right)

Condos.....

... and more condos.

In addition to being a public park that makes walking uptown and downtown that much more pleasurable, the High Line hosts interactive public art installations, performances, open air film screenings and exhibits throughout the year.

Art

The success of the High Line has been two-fold: not only does it attract two million visitors annually, but it has also inspired another green space project. Dubbed the “Low Line”, its plan proposes to restore a former trolley terminal under Delancey Street (Lower East Side), into an underground park. Read more here: NYTimes.com

True to its spirit, the residents and community of New York rallied together in support of this reclamation which has further stimulated the West Side’s rejuvenation. The High Line has successfully rehabilitated and preserved an essential part of New York’s history. Likely influenced by its Parisian predecessor, the Promenade Plantée – an elevated park built around a similar rail viaduct and inaugurated in 1993, Manhattan’s High Line has furthered interest for industrial restoration closer to home. Similar projects are in early stages in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Chicago.

A linear view

Hudson River views

A great blog about Promenade Plantée can be found here:

Paris’ Promenade Plantée: The original High Line park | On the Luce.