Urban Vs Natural ~ New York and California

I read some words today that I’ve been reflecting on ever since. You may read them here: mimokhair, Day 2, Vietnam

Energised by the built; energised by the wild. Constantly revved up by a kaleidoscope of impressions, versus quietly meditating on the infinite. Striving towards a balance.

The thoughts shared by the Native American on mimokhair’s post speak volumes about my love for city life, accompanied by the constant pull of the Pacific Ocean.

Looking towards the horizon from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

View from my apartment building’s rooftop in Brooklyn, looking towards Manhattan. One World Trade Centre in NY’s downtown (background).

West Side Frolics, in NYC

Well, I was hardly frolicking, though the warmer temperatures today had me reaching for my lighter trench as I headed outside, into the very welcome sunshine. Whilst it was still layer-worthy weather, I was glad to stuff my gloves into my coat pockets and wander about; taking photos comfortably – my fingers devoid of any painful numbing sensations so persistent in the cooler temps.

If you like architecture and are drawn to that well-worn, distressed look reminiscent of an industrial mid-19th Century Manhattan, then one of the best strolls to take is along the West Side of downtown NYC: starting at the Meatpacking District, and making your way through a residential West Village, along the outskirts of SoHo, and into the narrow streets of lovely Tribeca.

To be honest, at the halfway point of the walk (the SoHo outskirts) you will enter into a considerably commercial area. You’ll pass by tall storage warehouses that cast shadows below; the glassy rectangular prism of a building that is Trump Soho; large car lots, so full that their parked cars overflow onto the adjoining pavement; a few huge advertising agencies (Saatchi); and, enough Equinox gyms that could seemingly maintain the fitness levels of Manhattan’s Lower Half.

That said, this juncture is an opportune time to pop into D’Agostino supermarket or a deli to grab a beverage and a pack of trail mix ~ for ongoing sustenance.

Below is a glimpse of today; the last day of January. I hope this walk may inspire you to discover and/or re-discover Manhattan’s downtown; its formerly industrial ‘hoods.

As an aside, I want to thank robertoalborghetti and barbaraelka, and Photobella’s Project 365, who have nominated me for the Sunshine and Versatile Blogger Awards respectively. I appreciate it very much and as a follower of each of your blogs, I look forward to reading your posts. I hope to share the sunshine and passion for New York through this tour.

~A WEST SIDE STORY~

START: Meatpacking District

Head to 14th Street and Ninth Avenue. The meatpacking district covers about 20 square blocks, and is also bounded by the High Line and Horatio Street.

Cobblestones on Gansevoort St

The Gansevoort Hotel, to the left, Sephora - in front

Still a cool and trendy place to go during the week (preferably), the neighbourhood has retained its character from decades past. In the 1840’s it served as a market district: initially for produce, and later – for meat. Its cobblestoned streets, original store signage, and glimpses of the 1930’s elevated railroad – now the High Line park – are all reminiscent of the industrial era.

Cobblestones and Patios. Then, this area was known as Gansevoort Market. In 1884, New York named two acres of land after General Peter Gansevoort, a Revolutionary War hero.

West 13th Street's warehouses

Fact: In 1900, 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants filled the district; by the 1930s, those houses produced the nation’s third-largest volume of dressed meats. The city, eager to retain the immediate supply of fresh meat and jobs, subsidized the industry throughout the early 20th century. *

Head in the sand...

TO DO: Visit the High Line; go boutique shopping; have a coffee and pastry at french-inspired bistro Pastis; admire the intermittent street art. The Whitney Museum is slated to open here in 2015.

TO EAT: Have a cocktail and stay for dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, Spice Market – inspired by the street food the chef enjoyed while traveling in Southeast Asia.

TO STAY: The Gansevoort Hotel, for its rooftop pool and bar (in the heart of the meatpacking district on 9th Avenue), or The Standard on the High Line, for its Hudson River views. The new Dream Downtown is scheduled to open on 16th Street and 9th Avenue, in Spring.

Window Shopping

Spice Market, with The Standard Hotel in the background

INTERMISSION: West Village and SoHo’s Outskirts

Free Press

Somewhere in the West Village

On the corner of Charles and Greenwich Streets

Trump Soho

Bordering Canal Street

Subways, fire stations and Tribeca

END: TRIBECA

TRiangle BElow CAnal Street is what Tribeca stands for. Bounded on the north by Canal Street, south by Vesey Street, east by Broadway and west by the Hudson River, it hardly forms a triangle – more so, a trapezium.

Here’s the story: in the 1970’s, a tiny triangular area bounded by Canal, Lispenard and Church Streets was zoned to allow for live/work status; this movement was initiated by its activist artist residents, who called themselves the Tribeca Block Association.

A reporter covering the zoning story for the New York Times came across the block association’s submission to City Planning, and mistakenly assumed that the name Tribeca referred to the entire neighborhood, not just one block.**

Thus, Tribeca as a ‘hood was born.

Tribeca streetscapes

Water towers and cobblestones - looking towards Varick Street

Tribeca was one of the city’s first residential neighborhoods, settled during the late 18th Century. By the mid 19th Century, the area was transformed into a commercial center – mainly for textile production – and it was then that a large numbers of store and loft buildings were constructed along Broadway.

A textile past: "Look for The Clothespin Tack"

The area along the Hudson River became a bustling produce, dairy and meat market known as Washington Market. Industry declined in the 1960’s and so in the 70’s, artists converged on the area. From the 1980’s until today, large scale conversion has transformed this cute neighbourhood into what is one of the priciest in Manhattan (based on median closing price)***.

Don’t be intimidated by its expensive price tags: this is one of the loveliest neighbourhoods to stroll. Its cobblestone streets and converted warehouses are restored and well maintained, and the neighbourhood is a stone’s throw away from the River Promenade. Trailing the Hudson River from Battery Park and past Chelsea Piers, it makes New Jersey look really good.

TO DO: Tribeca Film Festival – co-founded by Robert DeNiro in 2002 to help assist in Lower Manhattan’s recovery after 9/11. DeNiro has been instrumental in building up Tribeca since then.

TO EAT: Bubby’s for brunch; Nobu for dinner (co-owned by Robert DeNiro). For thrills: Tribeca Grill – also co-owned by Robert DeNiro, it counts Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Philips, Russell Simmons, Christopher Walken and Harvey & Bob Weinstein of the Weinstein Company amongst its investors.

TO STAY: Tribeca Grand Hotel – which actually stands on a triangular block – has a cool lobby bar for pre-dinner drinks. The James Hotel, located just above Canal Street, is on the cusp of Soho and Tribeca.

Tribeca Grand Hotel's clock

The James Hotel

OPTION: Outskirts of Chinatown/City Hall/enroute to Brooklyn Bridge

Heading home to Brooklyn, my subway stop is by City Hall. You may also choose to continue on this way from Tribeca, as the route leads to the Brooklyn Bridge. Here, you’ll also be able to take in some vistas of a courted Manhattan, on its East side.

US Courthouse, to the left; City Hall - ahead

U.S Court House

Flanked - New York by Frank Gehry: at 870 feet tall, it is the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere

New York by Genhry - the Brooklyn Bridge is to the left

Chambers Street Subway

*http://meatpacking-district.com   **Wikipedia

***http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/11/22/nycs_10_most_expensive_sales_of_the_last_quarter.php

The Bronze Statuettes of the 14th Street – 8th Avenue Subway, NYC

Awards season is upon us, and The Golden Globes are one of the first events to kick it off. Having lived in New York for one such season already, since moving back from Southern California, I will inevitably wax nostalgic (again) over Los Angeles as I watch its glorious sunshine light up the movie stars on the red carpet from the other side of the country.

2012 recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement @ Golden Globes

Southern California (Orange County) sparkles in the off-season

I wanted to honour the Golden Globes from New York, so by a (large) stretch of the imagination, I came up with a topic for this post: The Bronze Statuettes of the 14th Street- 8th Avenue Subway. I spotted these little figurines at the stop a few weeks back and have wanted to showcase them ever since. In a nod to the Golden Globe statues, I think I have found the perfect excuse.

 

Rolling dice and playing cards

Pumped!

Waiting, with the rest of us

A resident rat

If you’re not familiar with these squat, bronze sculptures, they are the work of Tom Otterness and are part of his “Life Underground” series, commissioned by Metropolitan Transit Authority and Arts for Transit. They adorn the 14th Street – 8th Avenue subway’s main concourse and its A, C, E and L stops. You may come across a cartoon-like top-hatted figurine on a stairway balustrade as you descend the staircase, only to then find yourself face to face with a large caricature of a man, disguised as phone box, on the platform.

Crocodile’s dinner

“Life Underground” took ten years to create, and includes over 100 cast-bronze works, creatively interspersed within the subway space. There’s humour and fun behind these bronzed characters, and they are so interesting to admire and interpret whilst waiting for your ride. I am sure you will notice a general thread of a theme/s molded and etched into these sculptures, though this is not the purpose of the post.

Caught sneaking under

Money Bags

Enjoy these Teletubby-like works, and their friends. I’m off to have a glass of wine and watch the Golden Globes!

Trunking Around

Tom Otterness’ public works feature in many parts of New York and North America; with a few works on view in South Korea, the Netherlands and Germany. More info: Tom Otterness >> Public Art.

Sweeping pennies

Sheriff

Rich sheriff

Exiting now…

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…

Williamsburg Bridge: Art on Art

It has been the inspiration for both a Depeche Mode video and album art (respectively, Policy of Truth and World in My Eyes); appeared in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die; and more recently, in July 2011, was the stage for an aerialist who performed 285 feet over it (illegally). Not a bad feat for one of New York’s only suspension bridges that has been standing for over 100 years.

The Williamsburg Bridge

I recently discovered the beauty (and benefit) of the bridge after walking across it to get to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, from Williamsburg. Why hadn’t I discovered the bridge’s walkway before? I thought it was simply for cyclists, who I’d regularly see from the window of the M or J subway lines when I traveled to and from work. I guess that’s because I was looking at the bike lane which is separate to the walk lane, on the other side of the bridge.

Walkway - from Williamsburg side

On a beautiful day, a walk across the Bridge beats taking the subway. The views are stunning when walking into Manhattan – to one side you can see the Manhattan skyline dominated by the Empire State Building; to the other, the Manhattan Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge further behind it. Walking back into Brooklyn, the view is more industrial (note the now defunct Domino Sugar factory to your left) and the walkway basically drops you off on the doorstep of the ever popular Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. (NB Sunset from the bridge is a must-see.)

Skyline Views

As much as I have posted on Street Art in the past, the Williamsburg Bridge has added to my finds. Its influence has crept onto the bridge’s walkways, mostly in the form of stencil art. I’ve since walked over the bridge a number of times, and every time I have encountered art that I hadn’t noticed previously. That said, I should acknowledge that many parts of the Bridge have been subject to graffiti that have defaced many of its plaques. Borderline art: perhaps.

Graffiti

Additionally, there are plenty of vantage points within Williamsburg where the Bridge forms the backdrop to a beautiful streetscape. So, in the words of Depeche Mode, “Let me show you the world in my eyes…”

A Williamsburg Streetscape

Is this Art?

Moscow, Moscow...

Nite Owl Repetition

Ink Art

Coloured Tile Installation

Forest Footprints

Subway in Passing

The Walkway

Accidental Graffiti Art Installation

Enroute to Williamsburg

Coloured Squiggles

Nighttime View

An Artist's Interpretation

Grilled Sunset View - Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges

Moonlit Gondolier

Wise Words

The Dividing Line

Goodnight...

5 Pointz – Graffiti Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens, NY

Having posted a few times on street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a fellow blogger, Victor Ho, drew my attention to a graffiti project in Long Island City (LIC), Queens called 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc. A hop, skip and a jump away from Williamsburg, I was eager to check it out. And so after a quick drive over the Pulaski Bridge that separates Brooklyn from Queens, I was in the area that is LIC.

LIC is not unlike Williamsburg. They are both undergoing gentrification, enjoy full frontal views of Manhattan across the East River, are easily accessible by subway or ferry, and are situated close to major bridges. In this case, the Queensboro Bridge that connects LIC to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. There’s a young professional vibe here though it’s not as tightly knit a neighbourhood, nor as developed (yet) as that which makes up Williamsburg.

Queensboro Bridge linking LIC to Manhattan

Simply dubbed ‘5Pointz’, this 20,000 square foot, empty 5-story factory building is covered from top to bottom in graffiti. The name represents the five boroughs of New York though the building has become a showcase for global graffiti works. Artists from the US and all over the world including Australia, Spain, Canada, Brazil and France have shared their art here. Located under the rambling elevated 7subway line and just off of a major road, Jackson Avenue, this one block long industrial complex is secluded within the confines of the dead-ended Davis Street. In one way, an oxymoron, for the area is far from dead. Today I spotted a film crew, photographers, iphone snapping fans and trucks aplenty in the enclave.

7 Subway Line

5Pointz Building…

5Pointz Building… continues along Davis Street

5Pointz Building… full frontal

Art continues down the complex on Davis Street

The fate of 5 Pointz is undetermined. Where the website claims that the curator of the outdoor art gallery, Jonathan Cohen, plans to convert the building into a “graffiti museum”, as well as “a school for aspiring aerosol artists, complete with a formalized curriculum that imparts lessons in teamwork, art history, and entrepreneurship in addition to technique”, there has been petitioning against knocking the building down to make room for condos. The building’s owner, John Wolcoff, has expressed interest in building two 30-story high rises to cash in on the migration of renters who cannot afford Manhattan, and has promised a rear wall accessible to graffiti artists in lieu of what may be torn down. Hardly compensation.

An homage to Dali

Marie Flageul, an event planner who is part of the 5Pointz team, recently stated on NYTimes.com, “What the landlord doesn’t understand is that 5Pointz is a brand and an icon, and if he knocks it down it will be missed. 5Pointz is the United Nations of graffiti.”

Ironically, LIC is located directly opposite the United Nations building in Manhattan.

View of the United Nations (left), as seen from LIC’s Water’s Edge dock

If you’re a graffiti artist who may be interested in staking a piece of wall real estate within this “graffiti Mecca”, perhaps the only legal place left in New York for tagging, you’ll need obtain permission from 5Pointz. According to the website:

The most coveted locations are given to accomplished graffiti artists who create high-quality, conceptual work that displays great artistic detail, while the less visible areas are preserved for new and aspiring aerosol artists.

The better the mural, the longer it stays up. Pieces and productions are typically left on display for anywhere from one day to two years, depending on the quality and effort of the work, as well as the pedestrian traffic level of its wall placement. Long-lasting, prominently displayed productions require a rough draft and demonstrate creative vision, a high-level of craft, and originality.

Frogs (mural located opposite 5Pointz building on David Street)

To sign the petition, click here: SHOW UR LOVE TO 5POINTZ

Condos along LIC’s waterfront

Please share your comments below. I’ll be tweeting this page regularly to relevant parties and discussion groups. This will be a way to support 5Pointz in their efforts to save their space.

Grimace…

5Pointz – Close Up