Tag Archives: Architecture

“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.

Statue

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

The High Line in winter and spring – A photo essay

In the past 6 months, I’ve had the pleasure of taking two visits to the High Line specifically to spend time with family and take photos.  Right away, a visitor realizes how photo-friendly of a place it is.  Modern art emerges from verdant gardens; original locomotive rails weave in and out of the pedestrian walkway—all with the distinct urban backdrop of the city.  Here are a number of my favorite photos—watch as the season changes!

The Standard Hotel looks proudly down on the High Line.

The Standard Hotel looks proudly down on the High Line.

Creepy looking guy...

Creepy looking guy…

My cousin Hanna checks out Tenth Avenue Square

My cousin Hannah checks out Tenth Avenue Square

Frank Gehry's IAC building...playfully known as "the Iceberg"

Frank Gehry’s IAC building…playfully known as “the Iceberg.”  In the background: Jean Nouvel’s geometrically-striking “100-11th” apartment building.

Jean Nouvel's geometrically striking "100-11th" apartment building.

Squares and rectangles

Even in winter, splashes of color are to be found

Even in winter, splashes of color are to be found

High Line shoes

High Line shoes

Welcome to Chelsea

Chelsea

One of the few grassy lawns to be found in all of Manhattan

One of the few grassy lawns to be found in all of Manhattan

Busy as ever

Busy as ever

Spring color splash

Spring color splash

 

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Filed under Neighborhoods, New York, Parks, Photography

Strivers’ Row

While participating in a walking tour of Harlem by fellow guide Matt Baker, I came upon one of the all-time great blocks of New York: Strivers’ Row.  Located at W 138th and 139th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Ave) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (8th Ave), these magnificent row houses tell the story of the changing perceptions and demographics of New York’s most notorious neighborhood.

The dark brick Italian Renaissance houses of Strivers' Row designed by McKim, Mead and White on W 139th St.

Like much of northern Manhattan, Harlem remained rural and relatively isolated well into the 19th century.  Not until midcentury did the neighborhood began to attract its first urban residents—Irish and German immigrants who settled in shantytowns.

The construction of elevated railroads in 1880 precipitated land speculation.  Block after block of rowhouses was constructed in anticipation of new waves of affluent, white residents.  Grandest of them all were the properties on 138th and 139th streets by developer David H. King in 1891.

The yellow brick with terra-cotta and limestone trim of Strivers' Row at W 138th St., designed by Bruce Prince.

To increase the attractiveness of his homes, King hired 3 sets of prominent architects to design a stretch of the row each.  Most noteworthy was the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, already commissioned at this point to design the Arch in Washington Square Park

[caption id=”attachment_274″ align=”aligncenter” width=”225″ caption=”Unlike the vast majority of the homes in New York, Strivers' Row was designed with  a private back alley for carriage houses. Today the entrance still reads: “Walk Your Horses

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Filed under Landmarks, Neighborhoods