Category Archives: General

“It’s Complicated” with the Statue of Liberty

New Yorkers have what I’ll call a failing long-distance relationship with the Statue of Liberty. We love her, and we tell her we love her all the time. But we never visit her.

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We never decide to hop on the ferry and have a picnic by her pedestal or bring a date up to her crown.  Maybe we head out once every 10 years if friends are in town, but even this pilgrimage tends to be approached as a necessary evil of introducing visitors to New York.  Perhaps this is because we New Yorkers (like people everywhere) often pride ourselves on avoiding the parts of our city that are overrun by tourists.  Or perhaps we’re satisfied with our first and only visit to the Statue, the one we took when we were 10 years old.

With curiosity about this pervasive attitude in mind, I decided to go myself to see if the trip deserves a higher place on New Yorkers’ respectable afternoon excursion list.  Even though I’ve worked in tourism for years, I amazingly had not been to the Statue since I was a child.  So here’s a no-frills evaluation of the Statue of Liberty experience, from a local perspective.

I waited about half an hour including passing through security before boarding the ferry at Battery Park.

I waited about half an hour including passing through security before boarding the ferry at Battery Park.

A ticket online costs $18 with pedestal access, $3 more for the crown.  This includes admission to Ellis Island as well.  I showed up, gradually progressed through the line and then grabbed a spot on the top deck next to the ferry’s guard rail.  The boat ride offered breath-taking views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue that I almost would have paid $18 for alone.  However, you can get almost the exact same ride for free on the Staten Island Ferry so I needed more to be really impressed.

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What a great view of Lower Manhattan!

Warning: Make sure you reserve tickets on the official website for an exact arrival time on a specific day.  DO NOT under any circumstances arrive without a ticket and buy one from a third party vendor on the streets next to Battery Park.  They will sell you marked-up “flex” tickets that you will almost definitely have to wait in a multi-hour line to use.

As we approached Liberty Island, the air hummed with excitement.

As we approached Liberty Island, the air hummed with excitement.  Even though I see the Statue from afar every day, I have to admit that I felt like I was really seeing it for the first time.

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Once on the island, I took a free ranger tour…which was fascinating. Even though we all take the Statue for granted, it took a series of minor and major miracles and over 20 years of work to transition her from an idea to a reality.

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I think one of my most striking realizations was that the Statue is first and foremost a work of art. It’s a sculpture after all and a masterpiece at that.  I have to say that I never grew tired of looking at her from different angles as I struggled to comprehend her gargantuan scale.  Most New Yorkers only see her from afar or in photos, neither of which compares to seeing her up-close and personal.

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Perhaps the biggest drawback was the 45 minute wait on the island for a ferry to pick us up. The wind whipped all around and many of us were underdressed…these are the 21st century huddled masses.

In the end I had a great day.  The enthusiasm and thrill of the tourists rubbed off on me and made me feel like I was on vacation myself.  Perhaps for the first time, I really looked at the details of the statue–the stoic expression on Lady Liberty’s face, the tablet in her hand and the lift of her back foot, revealing that she is actually walking forward–progressing.   My verdict is that the Statue is not overrated.  The fact that people from all over the world come to see her is a clue that New Yorkers should too.  So if you love her, pay her a visit!

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Filed under General, Landmarks, New York

Ray’s Manhattan: Less forgotten but equally majestic

Lest Manhattan gets jealous of my Forgotten Brooklyn Post, I’ve compiled 10 of the most striking pictures I’ve taken on this storied island.  Click to enlarge…and enjoy!

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Rainy Little Italy

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Central Park’s great mirror – the Onassis Reservoir

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Our lady, as seen from the ferry deck

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The Dakota Apartments’ silent guardians

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge as seen in the famous children's story

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge as seen in the famous children’s story

Lower East Side native Sol Matsil displays torah scrolls in Kehila Kedosha Janina-the Western Hemisphere's sole Greek Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Lower East Side native Sol Matsil displays Torah scrolls in Kehila Kedosha Janina–the Western Hemisphere’s sole Greek Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Look, Mommy!

Look, Mommy!

One of my favorite castles in New York - the Jefferson Market Library

One of my favorite castles in New York – the Jefferson Market Library

We must protect this house!  From the Grinch who stole Christmas...

We must protect this house! From the Grinch who stole Christmas…

 

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Filed under General, New York, Photography

Ray’s Brooklyn, Forgotten No More

One of the best parts of my job is how much I get to explore.  Last year I centered my wanderings mostly on Manhattan since that is where the lion’s share of this city’s tours take place.  This season, however, I have been making a concerted effort to specialize in Brooklyn–my home and the part of New York I love most.

I created my original Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO Walking Tour, now my most popular tour, and listed myself on Brooklyn’s TripAdvisor site.  Soon I plan to roll out a number of new Brooklyn tours focusing on neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Williamsburg.  Someday I hope even give a tour of the neighborhood that is nearest and dearest to me: my home, Flatbush/Ditmas Park.

As I explore, I take photos with my cell phone, point-and-shoot or digital SLR camera, depending on what I felt like lugging around on any given day.  Here are 10 of my favorite “Forgotten Brooklyn” photos of back alleys, hidden vistas and urban curiosities.  Click to enlarge…and enjoy!

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Greenpoint Graffiti

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Dog walkers on hidden College Place – Brooklyn Heights

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This must be the Joad’s old truck! – Vinegar Hill

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Thrift Store – Ditmas Park

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That’s my train! – Ditmas Park     

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Quarters A: the one-time home of the Commandant of the navy – Vinegar Hill

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Just a couple days of rain in the fall will bring these guys out – Ditmas Park

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The last trolley I know of in Brooklyn – Red Hook

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The commanding Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument, from below! – Fort Greene

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Mikey and the street art of DUMBO

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Filed under Brooklyn, General, Neighborhoods, Photography

Test your knowledge: NYC <=> Europe and Egypt

As I return home from my travels across Europe and Egypt, I can’t help but think of the many connections I noticed to New York.  Below are ten such connections, in order of easiest to hardest.

1)  Pizza Time – Perhaps the only place more famous than New York for its pizza is Italy.  Specifically, what city takes credit for inventing the pizza over 100 years ago?

My friend John prepares to demolish this pizza at Da Michele: the most famous pizzeria in the most famous pizza city in the world.

2)  Egyptian Temples and Obelisks – New York can lay claim to exactly one Egyptian Obelisk and one Egyptian Temple.  Both of which were gifts from the Egyptian Government (we didn’t steal them!)  Where can you find and visit these antiquities?

An obelisk at Karnack Temple, in Luxor, Egypt.

3)  Peace Sculptures – Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd is famous for his peace imagery, specifically Non-Violence, the sculpture of a revolver tied into a knot.  This sculpture can be found in various places around Europe, including Luxembourg, where I stumbled across it.  At what peace-promoting institution in New York can you find an original version of Reuterswärd’s Non-Violence?

Non-violence at the Jean Monnet Building, European Union headquarters, Luxembourg.

4)  Frank Gehry – This Canadian celebrity architect has work scattered all across the globe, from Barcelona, to Hong Kong to Toronto.  Name a building he designed in New York (hint: there are 3, plus two interiors).

Taking a bike ride along Barcelona’s redesigned coastline. Gehry’s Olympic Fish is in the background.

5)  Neapolitan Mosaics – In addition to its Pizza, Naples (and specifically the ill-fated Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum) is famous for its intricate mosaics.  Arguably the most famous mosaic in New York was a gift of the people of Naples—where is this mosaic and what does it commemorate?

A Roman mosaic on display in the National Archeological Museum. Beautiful mosaics like these were preserved after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.

6)  Venetian Gondola –  Not far from the famous mosaic, one spots an authentic Venetian Gondola complete with gondolier for hire ($30/half hour).  On what popular waterway can you find this little slice of Italy?

Gondola’s are a blast (even in the winter!) But the ones in Venice will cost you almost twice as much as their New York counterpart.

7)  Florentine Palazzos – Florence is famous for its Renaissance art and architecture including its Palazzos, imposing fortresses designed as displays of security and political muscle.  What Manhattan federal building draws on Florentine Palazzo architecture for the same effect?

Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi, begun over 500 years ago.

8)  Bronze Doors – Still in Florence, among the most famous set of doors in the world are the bronze doors at the entrance to the Baptistery of San Giovanni, completed 1336.  Over half a century later, 4 sets of similar bronze doors were designed by Statue of Liberty pedestal architect Richard Morris Hunt.  In what NYC landmark were they installed?

Florence’s bronze Baptistery Doors…Ray for scale.

9)  Don Quixote – While in Madrid, I visited the house of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes.  In the 1980s, the City of Madrid gave New York a statue of their most famous writer.  In the Spanish department of what university does this statue stand? (Hint: You have to go down a back alley…this neighborhood is full of back alleys.)

Don Quixote painting at the Cervantes House

10)  Close to home – New York was founded by the Dutch, as were many of the original neighborhoods that went on to become Brooklyn.  Many Dutch words have worked their way into the New York vernacular–from Coney Island, to “stoop,” to Yankee.  In Amsterdam, one of the prominent landmarks is the New Church, or Nieuwe Kerk.  Where in New York can you find a Nieuwe Kerk reference to our Dutch heritage?  (Hint: This is the name of MY subway stop!)

Amsterdam’s Neiuew Kerk

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  1. Naples
  2. In Central Park and inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  3. United Nations
  4. 8 Spruce St (AKA New York By Gehry, the giant, twisting silver building right next to the Brooklyn Bridge), IAC Building (the frosted, iceberg-esque building near the High Line at Chelsea Piers), and the Signature Theature on 42nd St and 10th Ave.
  5. Strawberry Fields, John Lennon
  6. The Lake at Central Park
  7. Federal Reserve
  8. Trinity Church
  9. NYU
  10. Newkirk Avenue and Newkirk Plaza in Ditmas Park/Flatbush, Brooklyn!

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