New York, New York!
"New York Afternoon" - a puzzle from ELMS Puzzles, painted by Alexander Chen.
By Kurt Starlit
New York is so much more than glittering facades, huge skyscrapers and costly shopping. This we found out on a trip to the big apple in April 2004. So, let's dive into countless attractions, beautiful sights and friendly people in a city that never sleeps.
Hostelling International - New York
891 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10025-4403
We stayed at a hostel on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 102'nd Street in the Harlem district. Every day, you meet exciting peope, or you can sign up for city walks, guided by local residents.
So, in the lobby, we sign up for The Grand Tour, where you on a 16-hour walk along with the incomparable Jerry Balch gets each and every stone of the big city turned.
Other options would be, for example,
Times Square / 42'nd Street Tour,
Friday Morning Bronx Walking Tour,
Empire State Building & Midtown Walking Tour,
Williamsburg Hipster Tour and
Greenwich Village Tour.
The hostel on Amsterdam Avenue
Beer-truck on Amsterdam
View from a window
View from another window
New York is a friendly city, but of course you could get knocked down in a dark corner (just as you can elsewhere), if you really work on it. With a little common sense, the city is as peaceful as any other city, so we felt at no time threatened or endangered. By the way, New York is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.
NEW YORK Map
NY Interstate road map
The subway is an effective way to get around, e.g. you can buy a discount card valid for both underground and bus. With such a card the city is at your feet. For example, early in the morning it's a pleasure to drive all the way along the Broadway - a distance of several kilometres.
The subway has been greatly improved in recent years, e.g. all stations are painted in bright colours, murky corners are removed, air-conditioning is installed in all vehicles, which at the same time has gone through a renovation. Finally, singing and music has been allowed - and even desired - in an attempt to create life and good-feeling in the underground.
As a result, you'll find plenty of talented musicians down here, offering their skills for free. One day we listen to a toothless negro singing spirituals. The only accompaniment is his handclapping on his own thighs. Another day we see a dancing group from about 4 up to 20 years, spinning on the head and doing break-dance steps of every kind. Very amusing.
My favourite down here is a jazz group (trumpeter, drummer & bass player), performing an engaging show, making people listen.
All this action creates life, safety and attention in the underground - just what is needed.
NYC Subway Map
Madison Square Garden
On 42nd Street you'll find this cultural powerhouse with two large halls used for hockey, circus (with live animals to be held and aired in the streets of NY), theater, basketball, boxing, or - would you believe - even Madison, run on a six-days velodrome.
Take a guided tour of MSG, and you'll know what it's all about. For example, the well-informed guide explains that the ice, used for hockey, is 1½ inch thick (approx. 4 cm). The ice is applied in four layers, each requiring twenty hours of hardening before it is ready for use.
At the bottom you'll find a basic layer of ice, painted white.
Layer no. 2 to be coated with divisions of the playing field.
Layer no. 3 to be coated with various sponsor logos.
Finally, the top layer is applied.
How can all this be achieved, when the hall is used one day for basketball and the next day for hockey?
By leaving the ice permanently on the floor!
So, when the hall is used for other purposes, the floor is covered by an isolating layer, in this way making it ready for a new night's experiences. The only exception being a yearly dogs exhibition. If there is ice underneath, the dogs refuse to cooperate, no matter how well the ice is encapsulated. The theory is that the dogs can feel (and smell?) the ice through any isolation. For this reason the ice is removed on this one occasion.
In the basketball locker room we see giant player Mutombo's shoes, size 57. The guide explains about himself that he, as a New Yorker, is a fan of The Knicks (short for New York Knickerbockers), though not permanently employed at the enterprise. Actually, he is studying at the New York University and temporarily employed as a guide at the MSG.
We finally see a ticket for the historic boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, 8th March 1971, suspended in the entrance hall.
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden (not yet translated)
You see them all over the place - the bicycles - too many driving in the wrong side, in the wrong direction, or in the fast lane without helmet, lights, brakes or any security gear. Close to anarchism, that's what it looks like. Many new bike paths are established, e.g. close to Ground Zero we see this path, which seems to be frequently used.
Especially in Central Park they are biking all through the day. Here you'll find all categories of bikers, as they can test their skills in steep turns and hills without thinking too much of distracting cardrivers.
Apparently bike rental is big business. Rented bikes are recognized by its safety equipment like helmet, mudguards, lights, brakes, etc.
The big lake in Central Park, called The Reservoir
The traffic of NY is generally better than its reputation. As a pedestrian you feel quite at ease, no matter where you go. Much to our surprise, local residents is walking against red traffic lights. So, not to separate ourselves too much from the locals, we decided to do the same. Just remember, if anything happens, you are in serious trouble as you are the one who is braking the law.
One episode emphasized the traffic culture of New York:
It was an evening on Times Square. A well-dressed woman steps out in the driving lane from the corner where two roads are crossing. The traffic lights has turned green, so cars by the number are on the brink of driving forward...meaning that our lady will be run over, unless she moves herself very quickly.
So what does the lady do now?
She waves with one hand at the cars, which stops, while simultaneously walking towards the diagonally opposite corner. No panic, no honking, no shouting......seems like business as usual.
The jazz scene
On the jazz scene we are frequenting venues like
- Blue Note
- Blue Note from the outside
- Village Vanguard
- Village Vanguard in broad daylight
- Birdland from the outside
- Birdland musical menu
Of special interest, singer Kurt Elling is worth mentioning. We saw him one night at the Birdland, he and his trio is something special.
INTREPID Sea- Air- & Space Museum
Pier 86 W,
46th St and 12th Ave,
New York, NY 10036
The museum is situated onboard aircraft carrier "Intrepid". The vessel, having participated in World War II, the Korean War etc., survived it all, although it was close to disaster when two Japanese suicide bombers crashed into the ship in open sea.
Everything onboard this museum seems realistic with real planes on the top deck. As the last (but not least) sensation, a Concorde jet will be open to public by May 2004.
So, although the Entrepid seems to work like a promotion of American war industry, it is still an interesting and exciting place to go.
UN - United Nations
The UN is worth a visit. Our chineses guide explains (in a not too easy understandable English) the story of UN, its purpose, its structure and its practice. Among others, we see the Security Council which is donated by Norway, the Trustee Council which is donated by Denmark and the Economic and Social Council, which is donated by Sweden.
They are filling up the big hole as we watch them working. Still, it will take years before a new World Trade Center is ready. Our American friend believe that the terrorists - whose goal was to hit American and/or Jewish interests - has missed the point a bit. The twin towers were inhabited by all nationalities and economies, even arabs. For this reason alone, the terrorists has hit the wrong target.
Never mind, these years a new tower is being built, bigger, more international and more prestigious than the Twin Towers.
One day a poorly dressed worker handed out flyers at Ground Zero. In the pamphlet we read about working in three shift, seven days a week, poor working conditions and low wages. Because of high unemployment among construction workers, the wages and working conditions (decided by a well-known company) are anything but reasonable. You are urged to call a specific number (the CIO - Chief Information Officer) to let him know your opinion on this matter. And though the workers certainly decide much better working conditions, we decided to keep neutral - after all you are a guest in this city.
Empire State Building
Since the Twin Towers are gone, today (2004) the Empire State Building is probably the best place to enjoy an overall view of the city. So of course we went there too, only to step along a two-hour queue, before reaching our goal at the top.
We talked to an Englishman outside the building. For two years he has been driving his business as a Bicycle Taxi. He came over from London two years ago and have had a reasonable living from transporting people back and forth the Empire building.
"It may last up to six hours to get to the top of the building," he explains, shaking his head to let us understand you have to be a bit crazy to throw yourself into something like this. But people won't be without an experience like this, so apparantly they are ready to suffer while working their way to the top....
The part of Broadway, which cuts through Times Square, was previously called "The Great White Way" - a name referring to all the neon signs illuminating the street (in those days only white lamps were used).
The first illuminated advertising was set up in 1891 on the corner of Broadway and 23'rd Street. It was an ad for Coney Island. In the 1920s coloured neon tubes were invented, meaning that you would meet any colour on the Great White Way.
Today, the multitude of coloured lights maybe seems a bit old-fashined, as most people get their daily dose of ads through the cell phone or computer. Nevertheless it is quite impressive.
The Great White Way
Coney Island (playground of the world)
Coney Island is the old amusement park, where New Yorkers previously spent their summertime. Movies were also recorded out here. Today, the park is on its way back to former heyday, though there is still some way to go.
Coney Island Circus Sideshow
Coney Island History Articles
Wonder Wheel on Coney Island
The wooden CYCLONE on Coney Island has been preserved.
The Boardwalk on Coney Island
Little Odessa (Brighton Beach)
Brighton Beach / Little Odessa, where many shops speak Russian exclusively.
We do not see many birds in NY. On the other hand, we don't exactly look for them either. The House Sparrow is quite common, just as the Jackdaw is seen all over the place as well as in Central Park. From time to time we notice a little crow, probably Fish Crow.
A gull species is seen frequently in the port area, however remotely, but probably it's a Herring Gull.
We often see a blackbird-like bird (reddish breast, otherwise noble) in parks and gardens. The body slighter than Blackbird, the tail somewhat longer - possibly it's Boat-tailed Grackle or Brewer's Blackbird.
We do not see any Blackbirds.
Red-bellied Woodpecker we see several times in Central Park.
New York City Audubon Society
Central Park Bird Watching
Birds of Central Park
View from Battery Park towards Jersey CityLinks
Entrance to the Chamber Street Station (the green balls are indicating the station is manned - red balls means unmanned).
From Brooklyn, we look towards Manhattan (from The Grand Tour). The man wearing a white cap is Jerry Balch.
A tree grows in Brooklyn....
The Danish Seamen's Church today is frequented by all categories of Danes in New York.
The Danish Seamen's Church in Willow Street
The Danish Seamen's Church in New York is a church as well as a cultural and social venue for everyone in the USA with relations to Denmark. The Danish Seamen's Church is located in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Whether you are permanently stationed in the U.S., a student, an au pair or just on vacation in New York, the Danish Seaman's Church has something to offer you.
The Danish Seamen's Church
102 Willow Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
A view from the window of the ferry to Staten Island (which is free of charge).
To the left is the Jersey City, in the middle Statue of Liberty and the Southern tip of Manhattan.
To the right is a part of Brooklyn.
Close to a skyscraper
Lincoln Center with ice rink
Bike path in the Chelsea area
Part of Columbus Avenue (avenues are running lengthwise, streets are running across)
Herald Square, one of many small oases in NY.
Motorcycle officer and van driver in conversation while waiting for the green light.
Mounted police in Bryant Park
New York, part 1
New York, part 2
New York Weather
BHRA - Brooklyn Historic Railway Association
(Experience the world's oldest subway in one of Brooklyn's busiest streets.)
Historical Postcards of New York City
New York City Postcards
End of journey
I would love to spend much more time in this exciting city. It is no exaggeration that I was close to tears, when we finally drove out of the city from Pennsylvania Station in a Greyhound bus. But time must be kept and the plane is waiting in JFK airport.
So, instead of sobbing, let's agree on meeting again some time in the not too distant future. In the meantime let the world know:
New York, New York!
A final note
This report from NY is believed to be correct, although errors cannot be ruled out. Have you got any comment or correction, don't hesitate to write:
In this way, any information will be for the benefit of new travellers.
Thank you very much!