Wednesday, April 20, 2011

this week in history

if it were not enough this week to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the titanic sinking,

the 146 anniversary of abraham Lincoln's assasination,

the 66th anniversary of FDRs death,

The 150th anniversary of the fall of Ft Sumter to the confederate General Beauregard,

adolph hitlers birthday (note the lack of capital letters there)

the 13th anniversary of the columbine tragedy,

the 16th anniversary of the oklahoma city bombing,

the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill,

 tax day,

weed smoking day,

and Crispin Glover's birthday,

we also must take another minute and a half out of our busy new york rat race schedules to honor the always understated hero of the union army, whose quiet ways were trumped by his relentless resolve in the face of battle, Ullyses S Grant.

april 27th would be his 189th birthday.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Appreciating Water Tour. A Summer Adventure.

5) The Appreciating Water Tour.  A Summer Adventure!

New Yorkers take pride in their drinking water. If you arent from New York you actually aren't drinking water at all but some foul carcinogenic, excrement-filtered liquid that tastes like chalk and snake urine. So, this summer, lets discover the origins of why New York is known to have the best tap water in the country. Take a fun biking trip through the hudson valley, from the Croton reservoir down to the Harlem High Bridge.

weekend bicyclists on aquaduct bike trail. dobbs ferry ny.

Most of the historic croton aqueduct has been decomissioned for over 50 years and lies beyond our legal reach, but you will easily find the routes the pipes took from above ground can be a pleasant trail to follow. underground is a different story.

Fill your empty Poland Spring bottles up with water from any park fountain and lets begin...

southermost path of croton aquaduct trail. if you're gonna get lost, 
pray that it doesnt happen in the bronx. 

The story of new york's water begins with a raging fire...

after the great fire of  dec 16, 1835 (which incidentally broke out on water st. where sadly there was no water) in which 38 people were known to have died a slow painful burning death, a gaggle of NYC's top brass got together and twirled their mustaches before deciding to form the modern NYC fire dept.  It had been a cold december. So cold in fact that all of the pipes that brought water from the old croton reservoir at 42nd and 5th were frozen stiff and rendered useless.

You may find it hard to believe, but the old croton reservoir this lithograph depicts is the current site of Bryant Park and the new york public library. 
42nd and 5th ave.

It didnt take long to arrive at the conclusion that a more modern fire department would need to be developed if new york ever intended on being a world class city like London. It is scarcely pondered nowadays the strong collective desire the city and its residents had to become a world class city and compete in population as well as culture with a city like London. This is largely the reason why we vuilt central park.

...But not to digress, we give you New York's well as loudest.

The aquaduct's most brilliant feature is also its simplest. the use of gravity.
at the dawn of the industrial age, utilizing nature was out of fashion, but believe it or not, the water from upstate makes its way down to the city solely by the force of gravity. this gravity allows water pressure to build in the pipes. At its greatest, the pressure allows for the water to force its way as much as 6 stories upward. This is why whenever you see a building taller than 6 floors, you will also see a water tower on top.

If you ask anyone what the oldest bridge in new york city was and they answered "Why the Brooklyn Bridge obviously!" You have this authors permission to laugh loudly in their face, " Fool! How wrong you are! tsk tsk tsk! You know so little, for the High Bridge is the oldest bridge in New York City, is some forty years older than the brooklyn bridge!"

Unfortunately wheny ou're done laughing, your now embarrassed friend could retort cleverly tat the high bridge shouldnt count because it was modernized to the point where very little of the original structure actually still remains. however, i dont think your friend likely even knows what the high bridge is and where our water comes from.

highbridge then

high bridge now. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Birth of Tourism

Wandering aimlessly in the city of New York is a wonderful contradiction to the synchronized rhythm of the commute. This is perhaps why tourists stick out like sore thumbs. But even tourists adhere themselves to ironclad schedules and obligations that prevent the magic of wandering from carrying them away. I have even met tourists who fear getting lost so greatly, that they spend an entire vacation within walking distance form the hotel. It is our hope to reclaim the thrill of losing ourselves amidst boundless potential for discovery, to remember the joy of wandering.  

We will now take a moment to examine the great unclaimed treasures of NewYork, both unknown and unappreciated. We will vault ourselves against the skyline from spire to spire as a glorious filthy pigeon in search of the next crumb to peck. We will examine the myriad of untapped potential, the possibilities we ignore, the places tourists and even locals never think to see, the things we neglect to do, and find refuge in corners that even rats seldom think to go. 

Herein we hope to perpetuate the value of a legacy, and perhaps even find ourselves, our own place in this great young city. The permanents. The  ephemerals. The hopeful and the curious. 

                                              blackout of 2003

We must consider that any new yorker who lived through the Aug 14th blackout of 2003 will tell you that the skyline doesnt need to be lit up in order for our city to be called New York, and even some of the bolder new yorkers like myself might encourage you to consider that without the lights, naked in the dark, we were more New York than ever. But if such a notion is to be resolved herein as true, then why do so many tourists venture to the 102 floor of the empire state building and claim to see the whole city? In these passages we will suggest that from atop the Empire, we can see none of the city. Only the buildings. 

Some may visit the city for 3.5 days and see all the attractions and never set foot in one neighborhood. When reading onward into this blog, ask yourself then, what is new york if not the attractions? And why are some attractions so grossly overlooked or underserved, and ask why are so many stories known to so few? Then ask yourself what other places and things not featured in these passages are worth your investigation? And those of you, New Yorkers, tourists, adventure seekers, tomb raiding archaeologists, will be the first perpetrators in the new birth of tourism, and the city will be free to be discovered locally as well as universally. 

                                                                                                           --garrett shore

1) the brooklyn bridge in a snowstorm

At first observation, the Brooklyn Bridge will appear a beloved stoic reminder of our ability to achieve our wildest dreams in times of great limitation. A bridge whose construction began in a year where 1/10th the american National Budget was spent on artificial limbs for civil war veterans, in a time before light bulbs, where horse power involved horses. It was a bridge built in a time of racial division. A bridge. So why then do more tourists walk over the fake brooklyn bridge in Las Vegas Nevada than walk over the real one in the average day? 

Even if you conclude that New Yorkers appreciate its vaulting displays on the occasional day off stroll, how many do you know who have walked over it in a blizzard? 

It is no great feat. 

Power bars and a redbull may not be required. all that is required is an adventuring mind... and some decent boots. 

Although purely an opportunistic undertaking (a tourist visiting for the 4th of july may find this difficult) it is an activity worth proposing. To find oneself at the middle of the bridge, amidst blaring snow, it is likely that you will find yourself all alone in one of the bridges most gloriously resilient moments, and the silent white skyline you look upon will be for your eyes only. Should there come a day that armies of you have read this book and heeded this call, one may find at the center of the bridge a fellow explorer, champagne in hand and a toast will be lauded. be sure to pour a sip over the side for the 28 men who've given their lives to the bridges construction, among them John Augustus Robeling, the bridges cheif architect. 

oh, and be careful not to slip. 

in the summer, i propose a similar effect of serenity can be achieved if one ventures over during an electical storm. 

John A Robeling

                                                                                                                    Hardenburg's 1907 Plaza hotel

2) Grand Army Plaza Minus The Plaza. 

59th and 5th ave N train to 59th st.

We may not need to school you on the Plaza Hotel's ability to strike a chord of awe in all whose eyes adore it, (Charlie Sheen not included) but we feel it necessary to inform you of all things peripheral to the plaza that compliment its beauty ever so stoically. namely, Augustus Saint Gaudens's 1903  gold-leaf bronze statue of William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Tennessee army, led by the greek goddess of victory, olive branch in hand. It is our hope that on the eve of the 120th anniversary of William T. Sherman's death on Feb 14th 1891, that the city might extend a momentary consideration for its upkeeping. Currently befouled by the loitering of pidgeons who frequent the grand army plaza for its never ending supply of horse feed, its ardent gold sheen has worn itself down to reveal its modest bronze shell. 

                                                                                   Wiiliam T. Sherman before

                                                                                Wiiliam T. Sherman after

I'm not much of an art planner, but i think about now it could use a once over, especially in lieu of the 120th anniversary of his death.

Its hard to fathom how a character like Sherman would be percieved in todays society, even as a military man. it would be safe to assume that his tactics employed today would bring about a swift court martial and severe public scorn, but his crippling of the south's morale by pillaging looting, and destruction of their ability to transport ammunitions was the last crushing blow to bring a much needed end to the civil war. For these tactics of cutting supply lines, and waging economic war, he is known as the father of modern warfare.

Known for his short temper, Sherman was subject to at least 15 separate modeling sessions where he'd sit in the same uncomfortable position sometime for over 2 hours. I would venture assume it was hard for even Gaudens to incorporate all the nuances of his craggy face.

It should be noted to those unfamiliar with Sherman's legacy, that he remains a significantly divisive figure to this day. Many southerners may view him in a strictly negative light as a heartless aggressor, whereas in the north, a hero. I have even met tourists from Georgia who refuse to acknowledge this statue. But truly, we will never know the real Sherman beyond such legends and statues as the one featured at Grand Army Plaza.

Upon Wiliam Shermans death, confederate general Joseph E Johnston,  a fellow west point grad and wartime rival of sehrman who fought against him at the onset of his Atlanta campeign, removed his hat in respect before carrying his casket as a pall bearer in the funeral procession. if we could for a moment consider a time when the honor of generals knew no conflict but in hindsight. it was a harsh february, and when told that he should put his hat back on to cover his old bald head, johnston replied that he would do the same for me. Johnston died of pneumonia brought on by this gesture of respect not one month later

Joseph E Johnston died because he wouldnt 
put his hat on during shermans funeral. 
They were wartime enemies.

3)  Visitng NYC's Statues of Women...All 5 of Them!  

To the discredit of New York City, more statues in here are in commemoration to women who never existed than there are to women who have. in fact, there are only 5 registered statues in commemoration of women who existed in the entire city, compared to more than 300 statues of men in parks alone!  The good news is, you can visit them all in one day!

i propose at the very least, to appease any female reader I may have upset, a closer look at the existing statues of real life women. Sadly, not one of them will be featured in Central Park, the most visited park in all of New York.

Joan of Arc in riverside park, not long before dark. 
note the tress have bark.

1) The first statue ever erected of a non fictional woman in new york city was Joan of Arc at 93rd st and riverside park. I will not venture to make any assumptions as to why the first statue erected of any woman in this city was placed in a location far removed from the glances of commuters, shyly tucked away to the far west side, her galloping horse charging toward a flovorless New Jersey sunset. Despite what may seem a location too esoteric for most tourists, any visitor to riverside park will find it a most peaceful and fitting place for such a statue.

This 1915 bronze commission launched the career of American sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington. Perhaps it is fitting that a female sculptor was chosen, though it wasn't the first time. The first commission to a female sculptor was Emma Stubbs in 1873. (Bethesda Fountain)

Joan of Arc could use some company. She hasnt had much since her 1915 commemoration when French ambassador Jean Jusserand attended amidst the heat of world war 1. Its not a bad place to picnic in the spring. To get there take the 1,2 or 3 train to 96th st and walk west. Show some respect toward women for godsake!

                                                                                  Gertrude Stein's annual snowbath   

2) American poet/writer, Gertrude Stein is at Bryant park, on the east side of the park , just behind the library, but overshadowed by the much larger statue of Bryant. The statue is a cast replica of the 1920 original by sculptor Jo Davidson. The original can be found at the Whitney Museum of art. So technically there are six statues of women in NYC, but do you really want to count the same one twice???




                                                                                                                                                        Elanor Roosevelt  dedicated 1996

3) Elanor Roosevelt. There is no statue of Washington in washington sq park. But there is one in union sq park. And theres no statue of Elanore Roosevelt in Roosevelt park, but there is one in Riverside park at 72nd st. The Roosevelt park I'm refering to is actually Sarah D  Roosevelt, but to mention that would have taken away from the potency of the preceding observation, which in hindsight now seems a completely pointless thing to mention. i couldnt help myself. forgive this bored researcher.  

Dedicated in the mid 1990's and again hidden in the peaceful "unseenery" of Riverside Park, this life size bronze by  Penelope Jencks is scarcely lauded or befriended, even by the loneliest pigeons.

Golda Meir dedicated 1984

4) former Isreali prime minister, Golda Meir, is somehow in the garment district at 39th and broadway at what was consecrated as Golda Meir Square in 1979. This flattering 1984 portrayal  by sculptress Beatrice goldfine inspires nearby parsons kids to wear more makeup. incidentally, the dedication of street at 49th and broadway to former boxing champ Jack Dempsey  10 blocks north in times sq. took place the same day and was visited by far more. the mayor(Ed Koch) didnt even attend Golda's commemoration ceremony. ouch.

now you see why she's not smiling. 

                                                                                                                                                               Harriet Tubman dedicated nov 2008

5)Harriet Tubman facing curiously south, was officially dedicated in 2008 at the corner of 122nd st and Fredrick Douglas blvd. at the Harriet Tubman memorial plaza.

i may not need to point out the fact that 3 of these 5 statues were erected in the last 25 years. hmmmmnnnn....

So, its been 401 years since henry hudson first fell off the boat, and there are only 5 statues of real women in this city. among the more abundant ficticious females, be sure to catch both mother goose and alice fresh outta wonderland in central park.

Now, if you guys out there want to impress a date, be sure to show your dissatisfaction with this example of poor public relations on part of the city in regards to women's history. then offer her these curt suggestions:

1) why is there no statue of Emma Lazarus?

2) and really, why is there no statue of Emily Robeling? more than any other, this i find most disgraceful. if ever a woman should have a statue in new york, it should be emily robeling. who does a guy have to petition around here?

4) The audrey munson legacy

Young Filmmaker Offers Rats Eye View of City

Andrew Wonder's recent and soon to be infamous short film featuring Steve Duncan ( on the exploration of new york cities prohibited tunnels and bridge-tops tugs more at the adrenal glands of new yorkers than non-locals, but subversively offers to all of us non observant commuters locked into the ritual working trance what should be a core american value: appreciation of, respect for, and a desire to know ones home from every angle.

At first, the reveal of this film seems irresponsible, and a distinctly unsafe romp through our vast and under-appreciated infrastructure. But the curiosity to see if this young man will be hit by a train gradually gives way to the same curiosity we've all had when growing up: the curiosity about what lies beneath, how does it work, and why is it like this? after watching, new york will seem just as forgotten as Atlantis, just as vulnerable as an orchid, and suddenly the same street you've walked for years will seem a blank slate for new ways of regarding.

It may be futile for tourists and new yorkers alike to consider the full discovery of a place as omnipotent as new york. One can live here for 3 lifetimes and never touch every corner. I have read statistics compiled by cell phone tracking that show the great majority of new yorkers limit their life in the city to the same streets and the same social spots and scarcely venture to experience new york beyond the lowest common denominator. In plain english, people seem to shrug off the city's great expanses and simplify life here to meet their basic needs. perhaps this is human nature? perhaps its an effect unique to new york? whatever that tendency is, Andrew Wonder and Steve Duncan do not posses it.

The strong fear of getting caught drives this short but engaging film. And underneath that fear, as is the subway underneath the city, there is a love for the city complimented enough by the knowledge of its history and technical workings, that the experience of watching is just as educational as it is thrilling, which is the films saving grace. What separates Seven Duncan from your average trespassing vandal is this appreciation for the breadth and vastness of a city rife with serendipitous potential. I am sure he will not rest until he has touched the very bed rock we've built it on.

Some suggestions for Mr. wonder for future exploration:

1) Beach Pneumatic transit. fact or fiction? legend says it still exists. there are some who say its all been filled in. that didnt stop the makers of ghostbusters 2 to feature it overrun with slime.

2) how far down beneath grand central does new york really go? the mole people may not be media hungry, but their tendency towards being tight lipped shouldn't abate our curiosity.

3) central park drainage. for those of us with the intelligence to recognize central park as one of the first technological wonders of the world and not as a natural preserve are fully aware that beneath its scenic beauty are miles and miles of pipes without which the park would have flooded over years ago.

4) north brother island. perhaps not that mysterious since discovery channel has whitewashed all curiosities about it, it would make a good adventure.