Translation from English

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Conservatory Gardens, Harlem Meer

Three Dancing Maidens Fountain was made in Germany in 1910, by a sculptor named Walter Schott...part of the Samuel Untermyer Estate, "Greystone" in Yonkers, NY that found its way into nothern third of Conservatory Gardens  in 1947...

Gardens themselves were built in 1930's by WPA workers, a six acre patch in three segments that is the only formal garden in Central Park, at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue.

This is off the beaten path for me now--used to go there a lot when I lived on 96th Street, often with Art Group. Used to have many photos most of which I lost as part of decluttering when I moved to Midtown --- I love the area and just felt like going there today...once secluded, Gardens have become very popular... main section is used a lot for wedding party gatherings ( saw a Scottish wedding group there once, groom in a kilt...reminded me of my sister's wedding) and Southern portion has "Hidden Lily Pond" that looks like a Monet painting in summer...

Really too early in the year for this place, but what the heck, I felt like it. I will be back in a couple of months for sure, and will get pix of Gardens when they are in full bloom. Even now I find them great.

Harlem Meer is 11 acre lake at northeast corner of Park, full of ducks and geese in the summer and also with freshwater fishing. At gate near entrance, saw tour group of about 60 senior citizens shuffling in...forget about this area of the Park being secluded any more.

Again, I will be back when ducks and geese are around and as a nice escape on a hot summer day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Murray Hill East, "Idol," Nicotine Lozenges

Parents, nannies and of course kids enjoy Spring day in children's playground of St. Vartan's Park, which is built above Midtown Tunnel....

Huge ventilator fans are nearby. Find myself wondering how air quality is affecting kids...know that people are blaming exhaust and diesel particulates especially as cause for allergies and asthma in children. Of course, kids get allergies and asthma in suburbia, too...

On a less grim note, "American Idol" surprised everybody by seeming to come close to losing Adam Lambert....

Find myself strangely curious as noted-- but at base not really caring that much.

Phasing out nicotine lozenges now...will probably want cigarettes again. Well, have to beat basic nicotine addiction...

Towering apartment buildings can be photographed this way only because of huge vacant lot, no doubt slated for development, probably bogged down now because of economic downturn.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Since You Can't Ignore It.....and Touro College

Since You Can't Ignore the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, thought I would show how it peeps out at you everywhere and have done with see it on TV here every night lit up in different colors for different occasions, etc. So here it is for the first and (hopefully) last time...

According to what I can find on the Internet, Touro College is a Jewish sponsored  institution that was founded in 1970 and has now over 23,000 students and sister campuses in other countries...

This older building at 30th Street and Lexington is now for sale or rent ( sign says)....must be part of greater history of the school, for this place obviously predates 1970.

Touro was an early Jewish leader in NYC....

If anybody knows more about this building, please let me know.

If You Are Not Afraid of Long Articles...

I very rarely read the New York Review of Books anymore, which is quite a change from when I was in graduate school and thereafter for quite a while...

There are a lot of reasons for this-- one of them, I am embarrassed to say, is that like a lot of people I just don't like to read long articles as much as I did when I was younger.

Like everyone else, I have been influenced by sound bytes and the tendency to try and make glib statements about the world around us. 

If you'r e not afraid of long articles, check out the one from a recent New York Review about the current economic disaster at ( can't make this into a hyperlink here-- try copying it-- if that doesn't work, just Google up"New York Review of Books" and look for the Home Page). 

One concession the NYRB has made is that it now has podcasts, too. 

The article concerns a book about the current global economic meltdown written by a libertarian American judge and reviewed by a left-liberal writer. The judge, a man named Posner, has shifted somewhat on his ideas about capitalism and market self-regulation...

Paradoxically, the length of the article is necessary to make a concise statement about where we are we got here, and what the future may hold.

You will have heard a lot of this before, particularly if you watch shows like "Bill Moyer's Journal." But this is an extremely good summary.

Take a deep breath and try it...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's Too Darn Hot- Sunday April 26, 2009

Global warming seems already here as temperatures  go into the 90's ...

Didn't make it to Central Park for more Earth Day celebrations, just stopped off to photo Street Fair on 3rd Avenue... NYC tradition and cliche. 

Impulse is to drink cold soft drinks ( I know, they're bad for you)...and keep cool. 

Have what may be allergies today ( hopefully not Swine Flu which is all over front pages of papers).... 

Not going anywhere too much's too darn hot.  We have a few days of these, they say, and then it returns to normal.

Someone would have to say to me, " Gee, just think what it's going to be like in August" !

Evening Note: Has cooled off here wonderfully due to sea breeze...thank goodness.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earth Day at Grand Central Terminal April 24, 2009

Midday Throngs filled Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, and out on Vanderbilt Avenue it was equally busy...

Many people were grabbing samples of eco-friendly products such as  Sea Buckthorn hand and body cream, and all kind s of other goodies..

One of more interesting booths offered samples  of paper made from recycled elephant dung.

And then there were political pamphleteers, protesting arrests and imprisonment in Pacific Northwest of eco-activists ( prosecuted as eco- terrorists), who had done such things as freed wild horses corraled to be slaughtered.

Affair was super crowded and often bewildering, with more displays than you could ever peruse in a lunch hour...tourists, of course, had more time.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New York, American Dream, American Idol

Derelict building with functioning deli on ground floor existed for years on 96th Street before it was finally torn down...

Like a lot of similar places, deli seemed mostly a place for people to buy lottery tickets of all kinds. Another aspect of the American Dream, in spades. 

I was raised mostly in Methodist Church which frowned pretty severely on gambling of any kind...except , say, in stock market. That's Endeavor of a good kind I guess...

New York remains a city of great ambition and a magnet for all kinds of ambitious people ( used to be, half of all professional photographers were in New York, for instance...wonder if that's still true). 

Meanwhile, on the California shore ( in another citadel of dreams and ambition) "American Idol" continues, while fading slightly, to enthrall America...

Like most people, find myself liking these talent shows and being drawn into them despite knowing I don't really care that much...and then there is the dream phenomenon of Susan Boyle of "Britain Has Talent" ( with Simon Cowell again...who seems like the embodiment of one of Life's "winners" and provokes so much censure for his negative remarks about other people -- I often find myself agreeing with him completely even though he is becoming , I think,  something of a caricature of himself).

Madonna has just moved back to Manhattan, supposedly paying $40 million for a house that isn't even that magnificent by old fashioned long she will stay is anybody's guess, she seems to have pioneered the whole modern idea of always "re-inventing" oneself.

These days it is a privilege to have a decent place to live in Manhattan and most of us who do feel pretty damn lucky...and fears at the back of our minds as to how long it will last. Sometimes I feel living in Manhattan for any length of time is as strong an addiction as smoking cigarettes. With the desire to get away from it always present too...have always noticed anyone who can get out of town in brutal August usually does, for instance ( and New Yorkers started Miami Beach for the winter).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day- Micro and Macro Issues

Been perusing activities for Earth Day and noting what issues/ideas are listed on the internet...

One site has a laundry list of what individuals can do to ease their carbon footprint...think there should be more emphasis on the bigger issues, such as solar and wind power, and new types of automobiles...

Also, some aspects of the list bother me. Number One item is using fluorescent bulbs...I hate fluorescent light for reading, always have, and am not looking forward to being forced to use it which I guess is coming.

Also, seems to be very little about Climate Change... well, NYC has Earth Day activities coming up Friday (Grand Central Terminal) and Sunday (in Central Park)and I will be taking photos and writing about them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Being A Child in New York City- Manhattan

Generalizations are difficult about being a child in Manhattan, because you have to ask all sorts of sociological questions---rich or poor?-- immigrant or native born?-- what neighborhood? etc.

And then, of maybe greatest importance, what is the family condition in which the child finds him or herself?

For instance, knew a friend of my sister's once in Greenwich, CT where my parents lived for some years...  her father was a big executive with a major airline company. He would go into drunken rages sometimes and beat them all...

Can only say from what I can see and what I've heard is that 1) Life is much easier for kids in Manhattan than it used to be ( lower crime etc.), but parents are very watchful  2) the recession is creating a lot of new homeless kids 3) have met very few people who grew up in Manhattan who wanted to live there as young adults ( Vermont and California are favorite destinations).

Know people who have raised kids in Manhattan who say it's difficult but doable-- Manhattan probably led the way with the idea of "play dates" and carefully supervised group activities... and kids usually get out of the city in the summer and at other times. Used to be, NYC was notorious for kids who'd never seen a cow, doubt that's true today...
(my mother, by the way, was a kid in Manhattan and was working on a farm once in the summer--her widowed mother was very poor-- and got to know the cows very well. Was kicked unconscious by one once ( whoa there, flossie). In those days and places, nobody probably worried too much about concussions...)

If you have anything to say about this topic, please leave a comment, love to know what people think/what their own experiences are.

Murray Hill/Kips Bay borderline neighborhood

Neighborhood around here is called either Murray Hill or Kips Bay depending on who does the labeling...

Wikipedia says Murray Hill's southern borders are at Third Avenue and 34th Street, so technically side streets shown here are really in Kips Bay... however, people like to push border of Murray Hill southwards a couple of blocks. 

As I've said before, people seem to like the sound of Murray Hill reminds me of when. MANY years ago, real estate agents started calling a part of the Lower East Side "The East Village" and the name stuck.

Avenues and main streets are heavily built up and commercial largely, side streets tranquil and full of low houses and brownstones... this is now arch-yuppie territory.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cooper Union at Astor Place, Manhattan

Cooper Union was founded in the 19th century by inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper as a tuition free school focusing on engineering and technical arts...admission is by incredibly competitive criteria, for it has a sterling reputation.

Several American presidents have spoken there. It is the site of the only speech Abraham Lincoln ever gave in New York City, in 1860...

Lincoln's 1860 address is considered seminal. Not only did he stand firm on Republican opposition to expansion of slavery into the Western Territories, he likened the demands of the South ( who threatened to secede if a Republican was elected) to those of a robber with a gun pointed at a threatened potential victim...the South's way or else.

Given all the problems we now have with guns and the legacy of slavery, the present rantings of right wing radio broadcasters about Obama "taking our guns away" acquires an eerie historical importance... also the growth of radical right wing supremacist groups.

By the way, I feel people certainly have the right to bear arms, to go hunting and to protect themselves and their homes ( in some parts of the country it's just common sense) and also for sports like skeet shooting which I might like myself if I were younger). But there also have to be some controls, just like you have to have a license to drive a car. And kids have to be taught about the dangers of guns...

Obama won't push the ban on assault weapons for the moment despite the dire condition of Mexico and the drug cartels that are threatening that  country. He has at least acknowledged the United States' role in the problem and the need to cooperate as fully as possible with Mexican President Calderon...

The mass slayings that occur sporadically and the spotty state of gun control in the country are always met with the same arguments from the right: if more people were armed, they would stop gunmen on rampages etc. Right wing people even hate the idea of background checks, on general principles... this is an argument that's going to keep going on and on, you can bet.

This sort of reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a New York member of the Conservative Party who insisted (typically) that slavery was not the main reason for the Civil War...

He didn't even go the State's Rights argument route, he said instead that it was "just" an historical conflict between an industrial North and an agrarian South...and particularly the persistent ambitions of Northern shipping interests as an example ( although this seems illogical). Well, a lot of political conversations dip into the illogical with people sometimes not saying exactly what they mean to say...not everything is as well rehearsed as a speech or press conference. 

All these debates continue, however... and Lincoln's 1860 Cooper Union address remains relevant.

Oh yes, one small thing it took me a minute to recognize: drawings of event for newspapers at time show audience and crowds that are 100% male...not a woman in sight!

Below is another picture of Astor Place subway--northbound entrance in traffic island. Cooper Union is at left, glam condominium on right.

Subway Conditions--Astor Place and 33rd Street

Difference in Subway Stations on Lexington Avenue line is typified by contrast between Astor Place station and 33rd Street, which are about a mile apart...

Astor renovation was done many years ago with help from Cooper Union and the heiress Brooke Astor, whose family made their initial fortune in items such as beaver skins ( thus inset in station wall--)--

33rd Street station is in poorer condition, ( worse than it looks in this photo) more typical of Lexington Avenue line...stop at 33rd Street is under what used to be called Fourth Avenue in the beginning....

For years "Park Avenue South" ( as it is called now) was center for big photographic studios that did major catalog work and the like...Now 33rd Street station is major stop for students from Norman Thomas High School there, and busy 34th Street...lot of old commercial buildings have been turned into apartments.

Biggest hodgepodge of half-renovated subway station work is at Union Square, which I hope to document someday. 

At the time I right this, Transit Authority is in crisis again... service cuts and fare hikes are on the way for what are already are overburdened facilities. More suffering to be added to woes of recession...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

End of Winter-- and Notes on Being Smokeless

Taken some time ago, this photo of a young woman feeding gulls on the East River esplanade near Carl Schurz Park represents one last look backward at winter...

Knowing NYC springs, there are still some chilly and rainy days ahead, but it IS finally spring here...thought for a while it would never happen.

It's about 45 days now that I have been smokeless, and this latest attempt to quit cigarettes for good looks like it's going to work...

Really like my support group ( part of Nicotine Anonymous). Recent comment by someone else hit a chord, though, --they said, " sometimes I wish it were years ago and I could just go into a bar and get a drink and light up a cigarette and relax." 

Another comment -- as we were propagandized to think of smoking as being "cool"--was that of a harried woman who said, " I can't do everything I want to do...keep having this idea if I were just a "cooler" person I'd be able to do it all.." get the feeling most New Yorkers never feel like they can get enough done...

Anyway, beginning to enjoy benefits of not smoking...mostly much better circulation and great improvement in complexion. 

Don't want to say too much about this topic though, as I think somehow accounts of people's struggles to quit smoking can be boring for people who don't smoke ( particularly those who never did).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Parade- from High Fashion to Halloween

Reports have it that New York's Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue is a fast-fading tradition, down from a million participants in 1947 to 30,000 last year.

The Parade has also gone from being a place to make a fashion statement to merely a chance to show of outrageous hats and other merrymaking reminiscent of Halloween.

The decline probably also reflects NYC's decline as a garment manufacturing center...once one of the city's leading industries, this has mostly been shipped overseas, although designers remain in the City and it is the theme of one of the City's better know trade high schools. 

Supposedly dating from Roman times, the Parade became a prestigious event in New York back in the 1880's. Later social critics liked to compare the cost of a dress worn in the parade to the wages of a worker in the garment sweatshops, and during the depression ragged people marched to protest the economic crisis. 

Still, it's a chance for people to have fun and celebrate the coming of Spring... although this year people's minds are probably more on the current economic crisis than on dressing up. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Earth Day 2009- "The Green Generation" project

Jumping the Gun a Little, (the posts I have just done on the water system and the Green Condominium have set me off)-- I remember that the 39th Earth Day is coming soon...

I remember the first Earth Day very well-- was a graduate film student and had just written ( and seen made) a one minute movie about the environment called "Consumption."

My focus in that script had three main targets: air pollution, cigarette smoking and the advertising that encouraged consumption of energy and tobacco without thinking of the consequences...

The "kids" who made the film did a fine job, and it finished with a great shot of an ash tray full of cigarette butts being flushed down a toilet... little did I realize at the time what a struggle I was going to have with smoking during my life, or that the environmental movement would every obtain such, when island countries in the Pacific are already being swallowed by the rising sea waters ( with much more to come).

"The Green Generation" project will be a two-year program to make people conscious of the need for clean energy and conserving resources... seeing how long we've been aware of the problem and how little has been done, it makes me worry just how bad the situation will eventually get. We can only hope...and let our voices be heard as much as possible.

More on this topic when April 22 comes this year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The "Green" Condominum

Sign advertises "Murray Hill's first Green Condominium," a super-eco-friendly development on East 33rd Street and Second Avenue.
Makes me wonder again just where the border line between the neighborhoods of Kips Bay and Murray Hill really is... think people like the sound of Murray Hill better for some reason. 

The housing market is in the doldrums right now, and I suspect all this eco-friendliness will come with a price interesting to see what becomes of this place.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Water Tunnel Project- 2009

Obligatory sign on Second Avenue proclaims names of politicos and functionaries...meanwhile,Hundreds of feet below this construction site, "sandhogs" and heavy equipment continue to work on extending NYC's underground water tunnel system... a vast, long-range and multi-billion dollar project.

To a huge extent, civilization depends on reliable sources of clean water. New York started its big reservoir system in the middle of the 1800's and has been working on it ever since...

The site shown here has been in progress off Second Avenue for over four years now, and who knows when it will ever be completed. In the beginning stages, blasting work was done deep down and occasionally made this whole neighborhood tremble slightly like little earthquakes...

In opposition to the "New York Minute," this project falls more under the heading of " In a New York Decade or so," just like work on the Second Avenue subway much further uptown. Who knows when that will ever be completed... I really don't expect to live to see it finished, but I probably will.

An occasional report appears in the newspapers about the progress on the water tunnel's odd to watch the seasons come and go and this local construction site being worked on sporadically and somewhat mysteriously.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Murray Market at P.S. 116

Warm Sunday afternoon...finds daffodils finally blooming in neighborhood parks, people flocking to sidewalk cafes and  also a Market at the local public school...
People look over fresh vegetables, clothes, arts and crafts and general bric-a-brac in the bright early April sun. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pico Iyer and New York (2)

Been thinking about Pico Iyer's essay on New York in "Tropical Classical"...

Published in 1990, a lot of what it says about NYC remains pertinent...maybe younger people today don't think of New York (or anyplace) in Black and White, but the sense of angularity, expressionistic/Mondrian imagery and the sense of griminess ( particularly after a trip down in the subway) remain, that's for sure...

Also the play of light and shadow that seem so much part of New York...

Of course, New York City is more than Manhattan ( or downtown Brooklyn, which has a Manhattan-ish feeling), but when people talk of New York, they are usually thinking of Manhattan...

The BBC has a New York correspondent, Peter Franklin ("the Gabby Cabby") who loves New York and is always urging people to get out into the neighborhoods when they visit...but people coming from Britain ( and elsewhere) tend to remain somewhat fixated on Manhattan....( keep remembering subway signs in Brooklyn that used to say " To the City" meaning towards Manhattan)...

It IS a good idea for people coming from elsewhere to get out to "the Boroughs," where they will experience a different city (cities), but Manhattan remains the beacon that draws people here... to that Fritz Langish skyline of the "Metropolis" and everything it symbolizes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Art is Work" (?)

Used to know what this building was, Beaux-Arts survivor on 32nd Street in Kips Bay/Murray Hill.
Sign above door says simply "Art is Work"...let's see, I believe this is a Design Center or an Art School or something...
Well, it's nice to know Art is not all fun and games, like Vincent Van Gogh...

Guess slogan like this reflects a certain defensiveness on the part of people in the arts...and true, look at atmosphere of Bush administration -- War is Necessary, Art is Frivolity... will America never lose its Puritan/Calvinist prejudice against the Arts?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting to know Pico Iyer (1): " Tropical Classical"

It's always interesting to read a well-known author you've never encountered before, and thus I have set out to discover the works of Pico Iyer.... the international writer ( born in England of Indian parents, brought up in California and England, graduate of Oxford. teacher at Harvard, writer for Time magazine, the New York Review of Books and tons of other publications...)

Iyer, who chooses to live in Japan because he will always be an outsider there, he says...that's his favorite viewpoint as a writer about "far flung places." 

His essay on New York City, written in 1990, is a little dated ( and how could he have possibly foreseen something like 9/11) but still essentially accurate--" a cultural pawnshop cluttered with bric-a-brac," and always, in memory anyway, a city in black and white, with something vaguely nightmarish about it....its skyline the inspiration for Fritz Lang's futuristic city in "Metropolis."

I think Iyer is wrong on one point: he seems to think dreams are impossible in New York-- whereas I, who live here, see it as a city of dreamers as well as doers... people who go on endlessly working as bartenders and waitresses waiting for their crack at Broadway ( or Off-Broadway); and, of course, these days, people filled with Greed and Ambition on a scale ranging from the ordinary to the $50 billion schemes of a Madoff. 

And I live in a neighborhood where, contrary to what Iyer says, children are everywhere... including countless mothers and nannies with their cute blond charges. ( Iyer's essay was written in 1990, before gentrification had wrought its many changes on Manhattan).

One comment really resonates, though: " No one makes a mark on New York, and New York leaves its mark on everyone."  Even in the post 9/11 world, in a city filled with yuppies and populated mostly with people from other places, this seems so oddly true...

"Entertainments " to Avoid

Hollywood pushes some of its "product" big-time, and currently it has done its best to sell you on the merits of Duplicity .

Don't buy it. This is a glossily made, well-edited and produced film that is at its core staler than the popcorn you're likely to get at the Multiplex.

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are the romantic leads in a tale about industrial espionage that reminds you of every cliche and every spy movie you have ever seen... to its detriment. What it reminded me of most was the  "Spy vs. Spy" cartoons in  the old Mad Magazine.

I can't spoil anything about its silly outcome because I left halfway through...

The Jimmy Fallon Show must be the worst thing to ever hit late night TV.

The big problem is Fallon. Not only is he not funny or likeable, he sucks the entertainment value out of his mean feat in some instances. They just sink with him...

I was never a big fan of Conan O'Brien, but the show at least had a grain of cleverness to it.