Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New York Mishmash July 18, 2012

Through a hot and humid day I slowly make my way from East Harlem to the Empire State Building.

It is close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I carry water and drink plenty. Sweat exudes from my pores and quickly evaporates leaving salt behind. The salt makes my skin feel gritty and when I can, I use bathrooms along the way to clean my face, neck and arms.

Central Park

At 110th Street, its northern gate welcomes me. The trees provided some relief from the stifling heat as I slowly made my way south. I encounter meadows, woodlands, creeks, a reservoir and a lake. Not as grand a setting as Vancouver's Stanley Park and not as familiar as Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park.

On my first visit I miss the lake. A few days from now I will meet up with a New York writer, Marcia Stone, and she will show me the enchanted parts of the park, which include the picturesque lake, seen in many movies.
In 1853, after three years of debate, New York City received permission from the state legislature to expropriate over 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan. The land between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 110th streets would become Central Park.

The land expropriated was not prime real estate, consisting mostly of swamp and rocks. The people moved off the land were poor and included Irish pig farmers, German gardeners and Afro-Americans.

The Central Park Commission sponsored the first United States park landscape design contest, which was won by Frederick Law Olmsted , Calvert Vaux and Andrew Jackson Downing. Nearly 3 million cubic yards of soil was moved and 270 trees and shrubs were planted.

The park opened in the winter of 1859, at first a place for the rich to take their carriages on a Sunday afternoon, eventually a place for all to enjoy.

5th Avenue - Museum Mile

When I reach the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I drift out of the park and onto 5th Avenue and walk along Museum Mile, which offers ten museums.

When I reach the south end of the park, I realize I need a map of Manhattan, but don't have a clue where I can find one.

Trump Tower

My search for a map takes me passed the Trump Tower. Donald Trump is the feature of a 2011 documentary You've Been Trumped. I'll have difficulty finding a movie theatre that shows movies I would like to see. Next week I'll find Angelika in the East Village. You've Been Trumped isn't playing, but will soon come to Angelika. It is a documentary that portrays the tactless Mr. Trump as the bully that he is.

Trump Tower was completed November 30, 1983, and it is where The Apprentice is shot, I have never watched the show and have no interest in entering the building that has boldly embedded its visiting hours on immense front doors. Mr. Trump is not my kind of guy. Class cannot be purchased.

The Trump International Hotel overlooks Central Park. He owns a great deal of Manhattan real estate.

Rockefeller Center and Plaza

Rockefeller Center is bustling, grand and full of shops, offices, restaurants and busy people. I find the place where tickets are sold to Top of the Rocks, I'm not going to the top, and it would cost $22. What I do is ask a security guard where I can find a map. She directs me to a gift shop. There I find many maps. A friendly store sales associate recommends an $8 map. During the two weeks that follow I will find the well-designed, easily read and folded plastic map that points out all places of interest on Manhattan Island, subway lines indispensible and well worth its cost.

Along with thousands of other people, I eat lunch in Rockefeller Center.  After lunch I visit the plaza, needless to say, with temperatures running close to 100 Fahrenheit, last winter's ice skating rink is non-existent and will not be reborn for many months to come.

Radio City Music Hall

Built during the Great Depression she remains the grand dame of indoor theatres. The sign announcing her existence takes up a city block, the auditorium stretches 160 feet across, the gold stage curtain is the world's largest. I do not venture inside, if this is even possible. I do not have my camera; therefore a photograph is not possible. But, I have seen a place of both historic and worldwide fame.

The Helmsley Building

Before Leona Helmsley went to prison I enjoyed her notoriety, she was the "Queen of Mean" suffering a breakdown.

On April 6, 1972 the twice before married Leona married her real estate magnate boss Harry Helmsley, once the largest land owner in America whose holdings included the Empire State Building.

I didn't seek out the Helmsley Building, with my newly purchased map in hand I was looking for Grand Central Station. The huge, impressive, golden building stood in my way, but allowed me, all the other pedestrian and vehicle traffic to pass through.

Built by the New York Central Railroad in 1929, eventually sold to the General Tire Company and then sold to Helmsley-Spear, it was Leona who named it The Helmsley Building.  In August 1998, intertwined in the bill of sale was the condition that the name remain. The building has changed hands a few times since then and is currently owned by Goldman and Sachs, who purchased it in 2007 for $1 Billion.

Its power, as it hangs above and surrounds Park Avenue, is truly impressive and leads me to wonder what happened to the Helmsely fortune.

Leona left behind money now valued at $5 to $8 billion dollars. Her instructions were to use the money to benefit dogs. Her very wealthy dog was left $12 million. She left $15 million to her brother

There it stands, The Helmsley Building, perhaps not meant to be, but is for me, a memorial to a crazy, mean, tax evading lady and her very rich dog.

Grand Central Station

New York's first rail line began operation in 1831 and consisted of steam engines and horse drawn extension. By 1902 the use of electric trains had begun. The Grand Central Terminal, which is its official name, opened February 2, 1913.
In 1947 Grand Central was bustling, but its heyday would soon be over with highways and air travel replacing trains.

In 1954 there was talk of demolition.

In 1968, for the first time, the Supreme Court ruled on historic preservation, and judgment was placed in favor of the New York City Landmark Preservation Act. Penn Central Transpiration Company, owner of Grand Central, went into bankruptcy in 1970.

In 1994 a total restoration began and by 1998 most of the work was completed.
Although the blue ceiling with its gold constellations receives many accolades, I was not particularly impressed. The blue seemed too pale and the gold does not contrast enough with the blue.

The New York Library

Since 1911 the main branch of the New York Public Library system has resided on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Majestic, yet welcoming, as well used today as it was when it first opened.  People sit on the front steps and food carts offer lunch fare.

In the back of the library more people sit in Bryant Park.

The Empire State Building

For $25 you can take the elevator to the top. I didn't.

When I think of the Empire State Building, my mind conjures up Faye Wray and King Kong.

As famous as it is, standing on the street and looking up it isn't a particularly remarkable building.  To appreciate its splendor, it needs to be admired from afar.

When the twin towers were hit, the Empire State Building, completed in 1931, once more became New York’s tallest building. When One World Trade Center is completed it will become New York's tallest skyscraper.

The Empire State Building is the third tallest completed building in the United States and the fifteenth in the world. Although a few other taller buildings now dwarf it, for forty years it was the world's tallest.

Times Square

The world's most visited tourist attraction stretches from 42nd Street to 47th Street and is the entertainment capital of the world.

To reach Times Square my map takes me through the diamond district, where Orthodox Jews occupy a surprising large portion of the street traffic. Hucksters shove pamphlets in my face and ask if I want to sell gold. I have no gold to sell and no interest in buying.

When night draws near I take a bus back to East Harlem where Jane Darling's a Bed and Breakfast offers a room, a bed and an Internet connection.

No comments: