A Tale of Two Loops Update: South Ferry Loop closing soon!

After a combined 108 years of service, the original South Ferry loop station will close once again! Whether it’s tomorrow, Wednesday, or Friday, for that matter the station will close to make way for the replacement station which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. So today, I took a ride downtown to old stop for old times’ sake. Sadly I didn’t get on the Ferry services, the Governors Island and Staten Island Ferry, that are upstairs due to time constraints. While I will miss it’s eccentric nature, I will so not miss the screeching!

If you want to read the original blog posting click here

So long old South Ferry and thanks for the memories!


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Awaiting Departure


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Getting On

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Going to miss the classic tiles!

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Train Departing in 5,4,3,2…

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Pulling away from the past into the future



Thoughts on Art and the Public Space: The Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl

Note: A version of this will appear on the NYC Urbanism site at a future date. Until then, I’ve decided to post it as it’s own piece, Enjoy! 

Life at Bowling Green was simple. It was a simple park that’s original cling to fame was the site of an equestrian statue of King George III that got torn down for bullets during the American Revolution. It sat as a simple place to eat lunch in a busy city.

Then a big bull came.

It wasn’t supposed to be there at first it was dropped off in front of the Stock Exchange at 3 a.m. A 7,100-pound piece of Bronze placed at the high altar of finance. A gift from the creator, Arturo DiModica, to his adopted homeland, the bull came at the right place at the right time. It’s a time where the American Dream is on hold and the economy was still recovering from the Black Monday just two years earlier. It was a big-hearted gesture from a man so in love with America and perhaps most importantly New York were one can arrive from anywhere in the world and make a name for himself.

The bull became such beloved artifact by jaded New Yorker’s, it overcame an embarrassed and overzealous New York Stock Exchange. The exchange, along with the New York Police Department, would’ve rather preferred the statue be melted just like King George some 200 years before and disappear into the haze of history.

Instead it made its way to Bowling Green where it has remained ever sense. In a record of two days no less. I can’t even remember something moving so quickly in my lifetime. And I missed that by almost three years.

For the next two plus decades the bull sat contently at Bowling Green. Soon the bull became a symbol of the city and tourists really made it into their own. I don’t know who came up with the idea of touching the bull’s scrotum for good luck, but it works. The only time the bull was in any danger was during Occupy Wall Street when some considered having it sing soprano.

Then came a little girl.

Just like the bull, the girl came at the right place at the right time. It came after an election that was billed as the ascension of the first woman president, which, didn’t happen. Instead all the energy that was supposed to dissipate after the election, found itself coursing like a steady ticker on the screen and the term ‘resist’ became moniker for this and new chaotic movement.

Then out of the blue, girl arrives with an idealized version of a girl staring boldly at the bull reminding, nay demanding, that the bull keep that American Dream alive. Reminding the bull that without the feminine there is no masculine. As the title says she is fearless and thus became a symbol of the movement is now cast as in bronze.

However, that joy of sisterhood came with a caveat. Unlike the bull’s ‘guerilla’ approach to fame. The girl came had a corporate benefactor one that many, this writer included, did not know existed. It’s benefactor, an investing firm called State Street Global Advisors, says the girls celebrates ‘the power of women in leadership’ and to push companies to hire more women in the boardroom. However, the company is already under investigation for fraud just prior to its unveiling, tarnished the message the girl was trying to convey.

And as for their boardroom, State Street has 3 out of 11 members who are women, or 27%.  The third female member just joined. Add the boardroom to the entire leadership, its 5 out of 28.

Of course, in this current age, everything is scrutinized every six way from Sunday because now we all have the time in the world to do critiquing. Sometimes critiquing is good, it allows us to correct mistakes that can hobble the idea or message. Other times the critiques become the message and that can hurt the creator or messenger.

It’s not surprising or disappointing that the girl fell a bit short, many of man (or woman’s) creations are of the best intentions some come out of the process intact, others less so. The girl came through at a time when many wanted to latch on to something, anything positive regarding what has occurred in the last six months. In many ways, the public was less miffed about where it came from but what it meant to them. Corporate patronage be damned.

And then DiModica came back.

The creator of the bull, who like all fathers, is protective of his child, he has sued those who have profited from the bull’s presence like the vendors across the street to big box stores that have profited from his magnum opus. If I were him I would too since the bull itself cost $350,000 of his own money to create it. Now he wants the girl to go because it’s reflects negatively on his creation and perhaps most importantly his work.

DiModica’s strive to protect the bull is admirable but his position to have the girl removed is foolish. DiModica forgets that it was the public’s largess and willingness to forgive, that allowed it sanctuary. DiModica forgets that they are rules to displaying public art and that his bypassing of the rules does not make him superior or an arbiter on who shares his space. And perhaps most damningly, the creator forgets that his vision of the American Dream, shown through the bull, looks less realistic today, thanks in part to the very institution that the bull celebrates; Wall Street. The bull may appear perfect but I see its flaws just as clear as its shiny horns. It fools me no less than those who decried the girl as a slick publicity stunt.

Yes, an organization from Wall Street created the girl, but the girl also in a strange roundabout did what the bull it was supposed to do all those years ago by encouraging ‘everybody to realize America’s power’ DiModica’s assistant Kim Stippa said to the New York Times.

The one difference is now that while 26 years ago it might have been American but now that power is female.

So, in fact, the bull and the girl are indeed two flawed pieces of art that share a narrow strip of land in one of the world’s wealthiest cities need each other. By all accounts they shouldn’t even be there, one because its unveiling was technically illegal and the other came with too much ‘emotional baggage’ and yet the public adopted these of pieces of prodigal art. They took the bull as its own 26 years ago just as it will for the girl, who like her neighbor the bull, now has no plaque and can rightfully hold her own.

Thought’s on Baseball and Birthday’s: Happy Birthday Jack (Jackie) Roosevelt Robinson

Today is the 98th Birthday of the late great Jackie Robinson. The first African American to play for a major league baseball in 1947. Recruited by Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier, which was more an actual unwritten rule and custom due to the racial and social politics of the day, is still considered an momentous achievement in both sports and American history.

A few weeks back I made the pilgrimage to the Robinson’s grave. As a licensed tour guide for the city of New York and as a African American I felt that it was long time coming to pay respects. In fact the road that bisects the cemetery where he lies with his Mother-in-Law and son, was dedicated in 1997 for the 50th anniversary.

So with my good friend John who is in the process to tracking down luminaries of New York baseball we made our way to Cypress Hills Cemetery on the subway. In fact the station, also called Cypress Hills on the J/Z line, literally deposits you within steps of the front entrance.

To find the grave, ask the security guard at the gate for more detailed instructions but I did keep the map the cemetery provides and labeled the easiest route. Also bear in mind that the path’s are not labeled with their corresponding names on the map. If you follow the security’s directions carefully, you can find the site within 10 minutes.


People have left behind baseballs and bats one I read came as far away as Nashville TN. 


Follow the Yellow Brick Road?

You will also travel between the boroougs of Brooklyn where the Dodgers used to play, to Queens where the New York Mets, a team many Dodgers fan switched allegiances to after the rather devastating split of the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles. As recent as 2013, when the current Dodger team was facing strife, their were some old timers who gleefully wished for ‘dem bums’ to return.

The city has a few places that also memorializes Robinson such as the statue of Robinson and Pee Wee Reese from their ’embrace’ in Cincinnati and the hotel he stayed in where he got the call that he had been signed to the Dodgers. That hotel is located in Midtown Manhattan.

I will be updating this post in the coming days and to fill in those locations.

On a final note, Happy Black History Month.

A tale of two loops: City Hall and South Ferry, A ‘City I love project’

In this post about this great metropolis, I’m heading deep underground to two of New York City’s interesting subway stations; City Hall and South Ferry. The reason why they are interesting is because they are not exactly in a straight line.

In fact, they are loops.

The first is one of the most beautiful underground spaces in New York. The second station, while a bit simpler, has managed to last the test of time and even get a second life.

But first a throwback.

City Hall before opening day. image from viewing.nyc

It’s 1900 and the first shovel spade is dug into the earth in front of City Hall on March 24th of that year. The planned 9 mile subway line would stretch from City Hall up to the booming neighborhood of Harlem.

The City Hall stop was to be used for local trains running to Harlem and later on The Bronx. While express trains would continue to Brooklyn. If you are wondering why that was the case, consider the fact that Broadway is a very narrow street and it would have been expensive to dig a four-track subway under Broadway. They would have to widened the street which would have lead to the loss of valuable real estate and cost more money.

To convince people to go underground, the newly formed Interborough Rapid Transit company, hired the architectural firm Heins and LaFarge to design the tilework for City Hall and the other stations on the inaugural line. The firm, in turn, hired Rafael Guastavino and his tile company for the sole purpose of tiling City Hall.


View of the ceiling

Guastavino is often referred to as a genius in his designs. Using tiles that were layered like a cake, Guastavino’s tiles were considered structurally superior to traditional Roman Barrel style Arches that required the use of large stones to support the arch.


Guastavino’s tiles at work

It was a cheaper and by all accounts more attractive method of construction. While Guastavino tiles usually come in white or eggshell, the station has a beautiful green and orange poly-chrome tiles that are pleasing to the eye.

The station also has a Guastavino hallmark. Since the tiles are layered the ones that are not used for display would have have had groove like striations on the tile to place the grout. When Guastavino was in his workshop one day, a client for another job remarked that the pattern was perfect and it has been placed on almost every tile ever since.

The station is also a massive feat of engineering. The station alone sits on a 147 degree angle. This was done to accommodate the City Hall building itself and the former Post Office that sat on the southern edge of the park. The tracks also had to go under the express trains that were heading to Brooklyn.


Inside the City Hall station

City Hall and the other stations on the line opened to the public on October 27, 1904. A ceremony was held at the station and as the legend goes Mayor George B. McClellan Jr., so intoxicated by controlling the train, he refused to give up the controls until the train reached 103rd Street, 7 miles away.

Passenger and guests of the ceremony were treated to not only the tiles but chandelier fixtures and skylights.


Favorite piece of the station the Skylight

However despite the station putting on a good show for the 15,000 ticketed guests, the next day the station was nearly empty.

It would be the station’s fate for the next four decades until it closed to traffic on December 31, 1945, at 9 p.m. with little fanfare save for an obituary like report in the New York Times.

The average daily ridership was around 600 and the station closed early when local service was sent to our next location. The South Ferry Station.

They were other factors that lead to the closure of City Hall as well. The limited amount of space between City Hall and the Post Office building, the inability to expand the station and the aforementioned close proximity of the Brooklyn Bridge station lead to the stations rather small ridership.

The South Ferry stop is located near the Battery, a local city park. The Battery is where you pick up ferries either leading to the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island and now Governors Island. The area has long been a transit hub in one way or another when back in the day all of Manhattan’s elevated trains, the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenue elevated trains all terminated here.

Elevated Station at South Ferry

The South Ferry stop first opened on July 10, 1905. Over the years a variety of services, from the original subway line to a mix of both the present day Lexington and 7th Avenue IRT lines. In 1918, after the 7th Avenue line was completed a second inner loop platform was constructed for extra Lexington Avenue trains at rush hour. After 1977, the station became exclusively a 7th Avenue station when a rush hour shuttle service and late night 6 train service ended due to lack of ridership and budget cuts.


Tiles demarcating South Ferry in the Serif font

The inner loop station was known for only using the central door for passenger access due to the extremely sharp curve. To lessen the noise, the station was walled with only door slots.

The outer loop was also designed by the firm of Heins and LaFarge. Stations like City Hall and South Ferry used different color patterns or styles and different symbols to help riders on their journey’s. This was to help immigrants, who had limited command of the English language. A boat was to symbolize that one could get off and take the ferry.


While, City Hall station remained closed and forgotten, South Ferry dutifully did it’s role in the commuting patterns of New Yorkers for generations. Unlike City Hall, which was too close to the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge station, which was connected to the elevated trains to Brooklyn, South Ferry had the Staten Island Ferry, which remains the most direct way to reach the borough of Staten Island without a car.

Over the years the IRT and subsequent transit agency’s that inherited the station didn’t really pursue any major changes to the station. Other than perhaps the occasional renovation or two, trains continued to screech around the curve.

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1 train returning uptown. Notice the gap fillers and the fences around the platform to prevent passengers from falling. 

Compared to City Hall, the South Ferry Loop stop had an altogether different fate. The American’s with Disabilities Act came in the 1990’s. Dictating that public facilities had to accommodate people’s with disabilities, it became clear that the station had to be upgraded due to it’s proximity to the ferry. Unfortunately, for the old loop an extension was not in the cards. Instead, a new station was built underneath the old one. This allowed for the connection of the ‘R’ line. A connection that was previously never attempted.

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Diagram of the South Ferry area with new station.

The new station, which opened in 2009, was equipped with the much needed elevators, a better ventilation system and a platform for the entire train. Compared to the original station however, the replacement left little to the imagination and looked very dull. One bright spot was a piece of the original fort wall was excavated and preserved for passengers to look at.

The old station was closed down and was used for storage of trains during non peak periods and for a time, tours from the Transit Museum. That all changed when an unexpected event gave the old loop station a second life.

Due to the already existing infrastructure at South Ferry, the MTA decided to dig deeper for the new station, however this leaves the new station vulnerable to major storms. Case in point Hurricane Sandy. It flooded the new station up to the ceiling and destroyed equipment needed to send trains into and out of the station.

The older station, while flooded, was surprisingly undamaged. The April of the following year the old loop reopened as a replacement until the new station is rebuilt from scratch, with the necessary hurricane proofing to prevent future service disruptions.

In a strange bit of irony, if the new station wasn’t built, the old loop stop would have borne the brunt of the damage.

So while Staten Island commuters have to contend with the screech for another year, I like the idea of looking at the old tiles all for the price of a subway fare.


Platform View 

As for City Hall there are only two ways to get there either via a tour by the museum which requires full membership. Photography is allowed but it’s advised to be mindful about using flash photography and no tripods.

You can go to the Transit Museums website for more information.

The second option is to take the 6 train itself. Over the years the MTA has relaxed its ban on people staying on the train beyond Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. They only request that you stay inside the train as a safety precaution due to the sharp curve. Its fast but if your in town on a day that is not the tour it will do the trick. Try to go in the afternoon to get the skylight effect.


6 train passing through. Here’s my failed attempt at long exposure shot.

As someone who has done both, the tour is worth the $50.00 due to simply because you’re in the station for at least 45 minutes and despite the noise you can appreciate the station’s full beauty.

While City Hall’s future is secured South Ferry’s third act is yet to be determined. It’s possible they might return to giving tours of the station but they will be one thing missing.

The screech.


Thoughts on Film: All-Female “Ghostbusters” answers the call.

Who ya’ gonna call!

As far as remakes go, they’re only two camps a remake can fall in; they’re sloppy homages to the original with little originality or ones that try to rise to the occasion and bring a new generation into the fold yet fall a little short.

That being said the new “Ghostbusters” film, I’m happy to say, falls into the latter camp. It might not quite top the original in people’s hearts but it’s most dynamic change, an all-female team, is not a liability.

This re-boot of the beloved 80’s franchise keeps many of the tenants of the original in balance with a new look and attitude, that’s leaner, focused and even zanier than the original.

As the story goes, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wigg) a professor approaching tenure at Columbia, thought she buried her ghost searching past and her book “Ghosts from our Past: Literally and Figuratively,” behind her. Only to be dragged back in by the book’s co-author and former best friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who now works at a junior college.

Despite herself, Erin encounters a ghost at an old mansion with Yates and her assistant, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Their encounter is posted to YouTube as proof but both are fired from their position. Realizing if they had proof, people would actually take them seriously, the ladies decide to go into research on their own.

Added to the team is MTA transit worker, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who had a separate paranormal encounter of her own while at work and Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), their handsome yet dim assistant.

As they experiment with new tactics of ghostbusting, thanks to Holtzmann’s insane cache of weapons, they deal with a mysterious occultist named Rowan (Neil Casey). Rowan is silently planning an apocalyptic new world order to make himself a god. They also deal with a reluctant city government trying to deny the existence of ghosts “Men in Black” style. And we thought the guys had it rough.

Kristen Wiig as Dr. Erin Burnett

The cast gels remarkably well with each of them contributing zingers almost every minute of dialogue. Even the sit down with the mayor, played by an equally charming yet stern Adam Garcia, provided some gags.

Wiig is surprisingly good at playing the straight person in the film and her character has a slowly evolving arc from frumpy professor to kick-ass ghostbuster. McCarthy, on the other, serves as cheerleader-in-chief, which doesn’t have much in the comedic department but she gets to be possessed by a ghosts which was crazy in it of itself but showcased her physical comedy.

Melissa McCarthy as Abby Yates and Lesile Jones as Patty Tolan

The can-do attitude of the women on the film is as constant as it is infectious for they battle not just the ghosts but the even the men who get in their way.

The film’s true breakout character however, lies with Holtzmann; who McKinnon gives an inspired performance for young women everywhere. The fact that she is quite possibly the first queer Ghostbuster adds a new dimension to her character. It might be easy to compare her to Egon but no she is her own woman and it’s no surprise that her character will be the one that future queer women will look upon her and have their sexual awakening.

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann

[Sidebar: Dear Sony please give Holtzmann a girlfriend so queer women are better represented in film. It will make us, the movie going public, happy to see something new and say suck it to meninmists everywhere!]

The cameos, some worked well, like Bill Murrary’s which he played a debunker of the supernatural and Ernie Hudson playing Tolan’s uncle who loans them their car. Dan Akroyd’s cameo was perhaps the most New York thing in the movie which he plays a cabbie and Sigourney Weaver as Holtzmann’s mentor symbolized the official passing of the torch to the new generation. The best one however, goes to the late Harold Ramis who is a bust in the beginning of the film.

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin Beckham

Of course when I said try earlier in the post I meant that the reboot has a few missed opportunities. Compared to the original, the film saves much of ghost-busting towards the end of the film a missed opportunity of sorts, since the first film used a montage of them finding ghosts as a way to show their rising popularity.

Their choice of filming in places to fill in for New York, while important for expanding the Ghostbusters universe, also subtracts from the setting since New York has always been a major character in many films. The adventures from the first two Ghostbusters had that classic ‘only in New York’ quality which gave their plots a sense of time and place the current one sort of lacks.

Another missed opportunity, is perhaps the most obvious, the characterization of Patty. While Jones herself defended the decision of the working-class origins of her character it still would have been nice if she still could have been a scientist and still be well Patty.

I left the theater wishing more was done for her since she has definitely more screen time, compared to Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, who by the way had the best lines in original.

The only redeeming quality is that Patty comes up with a few ideas that contribute to the team effort and is extremely protective of the team, particularly to well you guessed it Holtzmann.

Fieg is great as a comedic director but he is not an action director nor do I want him to be one. If there is to be a sequel, please let someone direct the action scene’s, it worked well for “West Side Story” and they had 11 Oscar nominations to prove it.

However, considering how much of the deck was stacked against them, this Ghostbusters rises to the occasion, reminds us that we all can be Ghostbusters and that films that are remakes can also break ground. But most importantly I just wanna have fun at the movies.

So, “Who ya gonna call???!”

Grade B

Ghostbuster is rated PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned. Light cussing, but inventive use of the middle finger, a theater manager who screams like a girl and ghosts in green, blue and Pilgrims?   

Walking Riverside Drive part 5: The Last Twenty-Four Blocks

This is the final installment in the Walk Riverside Project. to read part’s 1 2 3 & 4 via link.

Well folks, here is the final installment in Walk Riverside Drive. The final 2-1/4 mile walk from the 96th Street viaduct to 1 Riverside Drive at 72nd Street signals the end of the journey I started three months ago. Along the way, I’ve see some of the most beautiful and at the same time overlooked sections of Manhattan. From the massive George Washington Bridge to the faded beauty of Audubon Terrace, I found a new appreciation for Riverside Drive, it’s role in the West Side of Manhattan’s development, and the hidden nooks and crannies along the way.

So come along, won’t you?

Starting back at 96th Street, I looked at the Cliff-Dwelling apartment building. It’s one of the Upper West Side’s most arresting building. Appearing to look more at home in a western U.S. city like Denver or Huston, the name derives from Native American tribes in present day Arizona, who resided on or near cliffs. The term was also used to describe people who lived in apartments. Herman Lee Meader, an architect, built the building as an homage of sorts to Mayan and Aztec architecture. Which is ironic since neither civilization resided near cliffs.


The Cliff-Dwelling Apartments

The building is striking in two aspects; one is the decorative terra-cotta which adorns the buildings upper and lower floors. Also be sure to look at the geometric brick patterns along the edifice. Two is the rather narrow north side of the building which is only nine feet wide!


The North Wall.

The rather narrow property was created as a by-product Riverside Drive’s meandering nature. This lead Meader and the developer of the property, Leslie R. Palmer, to devise the apartment units to face the Drive and 96th Street. The building’s core holds the buildings stairwell and elevator.


South Wall

One of the blogs I looked at is Scouting NY which talks about what a film location scout learns about the city. He noted that this  building, has one claim to fame. Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard resided in the building and accused a steward from another hotel of being a Nazi spy. When the FBI tried to follow up on the investigation, Hubbard had already left New York. So we will never truly know if the accused was a spy.

The New York Times, in a feature on the building, also remarked that the building was highly praised by it’s rival publication “The New York Herald.” Saying it “opened up a new horizon for developers who had ”exhausted the supply of names and styles from every famous palace, chateau and castle in Europe.”


Continuing down the street, the road divides again creating more lush traffic medians I’ve come to love. On top of one of them is perhaps the city’s oldest statue ever dedicated to a woman, Joan of Arc.


Joan of Arc statue by Anna Huntington nee Hyatt.


Despite her short but remarkable life, Joan of Arc has become martyr for French nationalism and is regarded as one of the most important female historical figures. In 1920, she was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Joan of Arc’s Death at the Stake. Oil on canvas by Herman Anton Stilke

The current statue was designed by Anna H. Huntington. The woman also behind the El Cid statue back at Audubon Terrace. Huntington was chosen in due to these series events. In 1910, Huntington, then Anna M. Hyatt, showed it to the Salon in Paris. Like many people at the time, Hyatt was inspired by the upcoming 500th anniversary of Joan of Arc’s birth and figured the Salon would choose her statue for the anniversary in some shape or form.

Unfortunately, Hyatt would only get honorable mention for her proposal by the Salon, who were convinced that she couldn’t do the whole thing herself.

Luckily, a committee who wanted to build Joan of Arc statue in New York, headed by J. Sanford Saltus took to Hyatt’s idea for Joan of Arc into account and advocated for her design. Hyatt won and became the first woman in New York to create a statue of a historical figure.


Joan ahead of the moon

The statue was unveiled in 1915 three years after the anniversary had passed. Thomas Edison’s wife, the former Mina Miller, and the then French ambassador Jean J. Jusserand, unveiled the statue to a crowd of 1,000 people.  The statue has been restored twice since it’s unveiling and is considered one of Hyatt’s best work’s

At 173 Riverside Drive, is the former home of baseball royalty, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. It is one of two apartment buildings on the Drive that “the Babe” lived in. The second, 110 Riverside, pictured below, he would move to until his death in 1948.


110-118 Riverside Drive

Three blocks further down there is perhaps one of Manhattan’s forgotten monuments. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which commemorated the Union Army soldiers who served during the Civil War, took decades to come to fruition. It took an act in the New York state Legislature in 1893 to create a committee and then it took another nine years just to finally dedicate the structure.

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Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in twilight

Unlike its down the road counterpart dedicated to another Union Army member, this memorial is a simpler affair. Charles and Arthur Stoughton designed the memorial as if to mimic a torch keeping an eternal flame. There are also two plinths which label the major Union Army victories and twelve Corinthian columns that wrap around the perimeter of the memorial. They are also a two cannons that face west.


Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument during sunset


One of the two cannons at the monument.

Despite its lofty goals of memorializing the Union Army, the monument was already beginning to fall apart the moment it opened. The city, which owns the site, has repaired it twice during the 20th century, yet the deterioration has become part of the attraction. It reminds me a bit like Inspiration Point, from all the way back at the beginning of the trip in its beautiful decay. Over the years, many efforts to restored and re-open the interior, long since closed off, have been delayed or fallen through, but there is hope that one day it will be restored, properly, this time.


The monument under heavy snow during Winter Storm Jonas


My first time visiting the Monument was about seven years ago during the AIDS Walk. As we walked the final mile back to Central Park, the crowd was treated to a drag performance. It would be during my research that apparently the site was also a place for gay sex hookups during the 1960’s. I suppose it’s fitting.

Across the street is a beautiful mansion, once owned by Harry Codman Potter. Best known as the rector at Grace Church, Potter was a social reformer and laid the cornerstone at Cathedral St. John the Divine in 1892. I’m sure who lives there now or what it is now but the house seems impervious to the changes over the years just looking graceful all by itself.

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Codman Potter Mansion

At 160 Riverside Drive, a simple building that was the longtime home of New York Times columnist Brooks Atkinson. He might be well known today as a theatre critic, but he actual spent the Second World War as a war correspondent during World War II and the early Cold War.

Two blocks down is the Normandy apartments. It might seem like a simple Art-Deco structure, but it also blends classical architectural elements such as Italian Renaissance into its two towers. Emery Roth, the building’s architect, favored this building over his more famous multi-towered structures to the east, The Beresford, The El Dorado, and The San Remo apartments. Roth, who favored classical elements in his buildings over more modern styles, was able to almost seamlessly blend two styles into one.


The Normandy Apartments

Roth retired from the business and spent his final years in the building. His son’s Julian and Richard took over the practice in 1938 and became known as Emery Roth & Sons. While their father was known for his sumptuous apartment buildings, the sons became known for their modernist office buildings. One of which was the original World Trade Center.


Close-up on the North Tower

Here the grand apartment buildings begin to share space with old mansions. They might not be as grand as the ones we discussed in part four but, there is one worth noting. 103 Riverside Drive, for example, had two actors live there. Joseph Jefferson, who is widely thought to have said the phrase, “there are no small parts only small actors,” and Abigail Bingham who lead a campaign to prevent the New York Central Railroad from rebuilding the tracks directly under Riverside Drive.

Abigail Bingham (image courtesy of the NYPL Collection)


103 Riverside Drive, home to two actors Abigail Bingham and Joseph Jefferson.

Bingham pointed out that it was bad enough to hear the steam shovels for the next ten years but it would be generations for the trees to bring Riverside Drive back to glory. I myself find the idea to build the tracks there a bit of a stretch since the Drive is not linear. If the plan had gone through, then the Drive would have been very different from the Drive I just walked.

However shortly after her death, the West Side Improvement Project, spearheaded by Robert Moses, did take shape. Which altered Riverside Park more than the drive.


Riverside Drive near the upper 80’s. The two pathways hold the tracks from the West Side Improvement project which lead to Penn Station.

Two blocks down is another mansion, 86 Riverside Drive, is one of six mansions that hugged the corner of 81st and Riverside Drive. The buildings, built in the Elizabethan Revival Style, by Clarence True, create a rare set of row houses left on the Drive. 86 Riverside Drive is also known as the Carroll mansion. A term derived from its first owner William Carroll, who made his fortune in the business of making fur and wool clothing.


86 Riverside Drive which in my opinion looks better from afar

The building and its neighbors has since been converted into apartments but also was home to the Consulate of Iraq and the East Asian Research Institute. Despite the row’s decaying appearance, True’s buildings, held firm by the Carroll Mansion still makes first timers to this part of the drive like myself, pause. The buildings are also part of the West End-Collegiate Historical District.

Near the end of the drive are two monuments. The first is the Hamilton Fountain, is dedicated to a descendant of founding father Alexander Hamilton.  Robert Ray Hamilton (1851-1890), was the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. An alum of Columbia Law School. Hamilton was elected to the New York State Assembly multiple times during the 1880’s. Hamilton, like his ancestor Alexander, was embroiled in a scandal involving, Eva Mann. Mann and Hamilton secretly got married only for Mann to raid his fortune. A fortune which included an allowance of the then princely sum of $40,000 a year.

Hamilton, who died in a hunting accident, had this fountain dedicated to him by the executors of his estate and the city. The architectural firm of Warren and Wentmore, known for building Grand Central Terminal used Tennessee Marble for the fountain. The same type of marble also used in Grand Central.


Robert Hamilton Fountain with Squirrel

The fountain, which was unveiled in 1906, was one of multiple fountains located in New York to serve the city’s workhorses. As that gradually faded away, many of the fountains were actually dismantled, but the Hamilton Fountain survived. Unfortunately, the fountain remained in poor shape until 2009 when donations finally restored the fountain.

As I was there a squirrel came scampering around. So naturally the little piece of fur became perhaps my first model.

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Since there was no water, the squirrel gave the fountain some life.

Now we have reached the final few blocks of Riverside Drive. Since this is the Upper West Side, much of the area still has its pre-war stock, a few modern style buildings break from routine. One modernist building to note is the Schwab House. The apartment block was the site of steel magnate, Charles M. Schwab 75-room mansion. The French chateau, was built from 1902-1906 at a cost of $ 6,000,000.  Andrew Carnegie, who once employed Schwab, remarked that Schwab’s house made his on Fifth Avenue, look like a shack.

Schwab Mansion also known as Riverside. 3 Riverside Drive is also seen on the lower right. (Image from the New York Social Diary)

The mansion’s amenities also had a massive, custom made Aeolian pipe organ, a five-foot square shower stall, and according to Daytonian in Manhattan’s write up on the mansion, a pair of bronze doors for each entrance. The mansion itself took up the whole city block.

Sadly, like the Billings mansion, the building had a sad fate. Schwab was always a bit of a risk taker and lost his fortune from the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Penniless, Schwab attempted to sell the mansion but there were no takers. When he died in 1939, he offered the mansion to the city, but Fiorello LaGuardia, the reform minded mayor, refused the gift. Since the building was truly ostentatious, it was demolished in 1947 after a public auction. The organ was mercifully spared destruction and is now somewhere in Maine. Another part of the mansion now sits in a church in Brooklyn.

The mansion’s name was “Riverside.”

Today the Schwab house, which some would say is a better economic use of the block, also closes the chapter on Riverside Drive being an address of the very wealthy. While the Upper West Side itself has always appeared more laid back than its more patrician neighbor to the east, the Schwab mansion represented the dreams of developers along Riverside Drive. Even if those ideas were becoming dated as they built the thoroughfare. People like the Huntington’s, the Schwab’s, and the Grinnell’s all were trying to make Riverside drive in their own image, to varying success.

The second monument is dedicated to Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s most famous first lady. Born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1884, Roosevelt was always on the forefront of social causes from women’s rights, civil rights, and international politics. She even shamed city planners from trying to save money on not supplying toilet seats! Her death in 1962, marked the passing of the 20th Century’s most enduring icons.

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Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

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Quote from a speech given at the United Nations in 1958.

Designed by Bruce Kelly/David Varnell Landscape Architects, and funded by over 2,000 private donors. The project was the brainchild of Roosevelt admirer Herbert Zorn. Zorn envisioned a new plaza with the statue as an anchor to welcome visitors to the park. The statue was unveiled in 1996 with former first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt III present.

Near the statue is a quote Roosevelt said at a speech at the United Nations in 1958, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity.”

The funny thing is that Eleanor never lived on the West Side. Yet, while Roosevelt might have lived on the Upper East Side at 47-49 East 69th Street, I think she was a West Sider at heart.

Finally, the last addresses to tell about are 3 and 1 Riverside Drive. Despite being separated by that god-awful apartment building these mansions have a shared history.

John S. Supthen, who owned the Riverside Drive side of the block, sold one parcel to Phillip Kleeberg, who made much of his fortune from Oil and other industrial projects. The deed stated that, “his heirs and assigns, shall, within two years from the date hereof, cause to be erected and fully completed upon said lot, a first-class building, adapted for and which shall be used only as a private residence for one family, and which shall conform to the plans made of being made by C. P. H. Gilbert, architect.”  According to an account by the Northeastern Reporter.

Philip Kleeberg and his wife, Maria, as Daytonian, who also profiled the building, wasted little time in setting the gears in motion.  Within four months, on October 3, 1896, The American Architect and Building News announced Kleeberg’s plans to build a “four-story brick dwelling to cost $55,000, on Riverside Drive, near 73d St.” Including the price of the land, $145,000 according to The New York Times, the outlay would be more in the neighborhood of $5 million today.  The standards were put in place so that the Riverside Drive could rival either Fifth or Madison Avenue. But as we know that didn’t happen since the old money crowd was happily ensconced on the East Side.


Close up on C.P.H. Gilbert’s 3 Riverside Drive.

It took two years to build 3 Riverside, and the Kleeberg’s, Phillip, his wife Maria and their sons moved in. The building appears to be built with Dutch Renaissance style or French Renaissance Revival depending on what you find online. Gilbert designed a three story bay window frontage, which allowed for a terrace to be accessed on the fourth.

If you met the Kleeberg’s for the first time you think they were like any upper class family. Yet if you asked around the local gossip, you would have found out that Phillip had a second house in the neighborhood. This implied that like many rich men, Phillip kept a love nest away from the prying eyes of his wife.

Yet, Maria kept appearances for a while until 1903 when she committed suicide during a dinner party. Maria drank from a bottle of carbolic acid and despite efforts by the guests to find a doctor Maria Kleeburg was dead. A crowd of 300 swarmed the mansion when it was mistakenly reported that someone had been murdered at the house.

The house was sold multiple times in the next two decades. In fact, William Guggenheim, son of industrialist Meyer Guggenheim, would take ownership twice. Once in 1908 and again in 1915. It was in 1915 when Guggenheim rented the house to a Dr. William H. Wellington Knipe, who was a pioneer in studying sleeping patterns. When Knipe proposed to convert the house to a sanitarium for the study of sleep the residents were outraged and sued Knipe. The lawsuit contended that the rules put forth when the house was constructed forbade commercial use of any kind.

Knipe however, did have one ace in the hole. His next door neighbor Lydia Prentiss, actually supported the plan which made her a social pariah on the block. Knipe won his case but Guggenheim eventually moved back in and remained there until his death in 1941. Kleeburg’s son Gordon retained ownership and converted the building into apartments but much of the interior has been restored when it was bought by Reginia Kislin in 1995. Kislin put the house up for sale in 2014 at $30 million dollars.

1 Riverside Drive, which is appears to be two mansions in one, was also built by C.P.H. Gilbert. The buildings were the home for both the Prentiss’s, Lydia and her husband Fredrick Charles and John S. Supthen Sr., next door. The same Prentiss family that got caught up in the lawsuit over turning 3 Riverside drive to a sanitarium.


1 Riverside Drive and 309 702nd Street.

The buildings decidedly French Renaissance, share both the garden and a back wall. The Prentiss had two daughters and the family remained in the house until 1955 when Lydia’s daughter, also called Lydia died. The building became part of the New York Mosque Foundation which today still uses the mansion as part of the Islamic Cultural Center. The building, which could use an exterior restoration, and has looked the same since its creation.

Now we’ve come to the end of the journey. Seven miles, over 130 blocks, and countless buildings and vistas photographed over the course in three months, Riverside Drive is unlike any street in Manhattan I’ve ever walked. I hope to any reader, past, present, or future picks a section to walk and find it as every bit as awesome as I did. While not everything that I saw made it to the final cut, I will make into another post in the near future.

If you truly enjoyed this and the previous posts, I have a few planed in the pipeline come spring and I’m always looking for new ideas so don’t hesitate to send some my way!

For my out of town and international readers if you have any questions about New York, add them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them as quickly as possible.

During my research I came across a quote that the actress Abigail Bingham said about Riverside Drive. It might reference the park across the street but it sums up why people like her defied convention and settled for a Riverside Drive address.

“For all these years I have loved to sit in my front window and get drunk with the beauty of Riverside Park. I have lived on the Thames, on the Seine, on the Rhine, and always come home to get drunk again on the glory of Riverside Park.”

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Journey’s End



P.S. once again big shout out to Trisha Sullivan for editing this post.

Thoughts on TV: Younger Returns For Season 2

Oh the fun they are going to have. Photo from Pinterest


“Younger,” the critically acclaimed comedy about a 40-something, rediscovering her life by being a 20-something again, returns to TV Land for its second season.

For those who were living under a rock, the show’s main character, Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), a recently separated suburban housewife, returns to work in publishing with a catch; she’s pretending to be 26, when in fact she’s 40. At the end of season one, her boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella) found out the truth, and things were somewhat left in the air but, it looked as if Josh was coming around to the idea.

Now Liza has to navigate the new reality of her relationship with Josh and still keep the secret from her co-workers, Kelsey (Hillary Duff), Diana (Miriam Shor), and Charles (Peter Hermann) at Empirical Publishing.

Complicating matters, her daughter Caitlin (Tessa Albertson), has returned from India, and knows nothing from her new life.

TV Land was nice enough to show two episodes, “Tattoo You” and “The Mao Function,” for the second season premiere, and it appears the show has not lost its touch. Some of the funniest lines from I’ve heard from the show so far have come from these episodes.

In “Tattoo,” Liza welcomes her daughter Caitlin but has not told her about her new life as a 26 year-old single woman. Josh on the other hand is unresponsive and blows her off after an attempt to straighten things out between them. In fact his text makes it sound as if he broke up with her!

Diana is still trying to get her hooks onto Charles, and when a dentist of Bobby Flay (yes the Bobby Flay) tries to make a move, Trout sends her to New York hell, Time Warner Cable! We knew Trout was cold but damn that was genius.

Kelsey meanwhile, is attempting to bring Empirical Publishing some millennial flavor, by making a book from the Tumblr account, “100 Things Women Think About While Giving Blowjobs.” The idea get shot down by Trout, but at least we get this delightful clapback from Kelsey, “I wouldn’t classify oral sex as pornography.”

Score one for positive sex! However, the idea gets picked up by a rival publication, which is leaving Kelsey feeling frustrated, and feeling unwanted.

Finally, when Liza discovers Caitlin’s new tattoo, she inquires where she got it, and figures out it was Josh who gave her the tattoo!

After confronting Josh about the tattoo and the fact he broke up with her via text, Josh admits that he didn’t know it was her daughter but, states he didn’t break up with Liza. When Liza asks about the text, he explains that it was Caitlin that prevented him from seeing her at the bar, and texted that they couldn’t meet because of ‘work’. Liza points out the grammatical error, she works in publishing after all, and Josh, surprisingly he fesses up to it.

Now we know from season one that Josh isn’t always that bright but, he and Liza make up, and for now Liza and Josh are back on. So does that mean everything all is hunky dory? Nope, Caitlin is looking at them making out through the window, and oy that must have been awkward for her.

This leads us to “Mao Function” where more of the groundwork of season is being laid. First, Caitlin heads back to Jersey with her father David (Paul Fitzgerald), so for now, that problem is at bay but, like Maggie I think she will return to give her mother an extra dose of drama.

On the other hand, Josh is learning the ups, kicking ass at trivia night, while Liza learns the downs, the very annoying age comparisons Josh makes, of spilling the beans. This make Liza question the whole situation even more. How can she have a relationship if Josh can’t respect the age difference rather than make cracks at it?

Kelsey has lost another client to a rival publishing company but her former client offers her the chance to jump ship. So naturally she asks Liza for advice. Kelsey explains to Liza that without Charles, she wouldn’t have her shot as a book editor, but she feels undervalued because of her age. Turns out ageism can go both ways.

During the function, Josh gets a taste of what Liza had to deal with when she kept her age close to her chest. When Kelsey, Lauren, and Thad ask about the breakup, he had to come up a lie to explain their break-up was over a deceased cat. Josh leaves the function in confusion and before Liza can deal with that problem, she has to deliver a manuscript to Charles.

Charles reveals to Liza that he is aware of Kelsey’s offer and asks Liza what he should do to counter it. Liza, ever the good friend, puts in a good word for Kelsey and suggests that Kelsey should be given something that plays to her strengths.

While Liza and Josh don’t fight about what happened at the function, he did suggest that Liza should at least tell Kelsey. Just when she was finally going to come clean to Kelsey, she bring big news! Charles gave her an imprint, or a division of Empirical to run herself and wants to bring Liza along for the ride! So that secret might stay under wraps for a while.

So what to look forward this season:

Potential Love Triangle. It’s clear Josh is going to be uncomfortable at times with the age difference and Charles is looking like a potentially better candidate in the love department. He values her input, he’s also a divorcée, and also has a kid so they’re areas of common ground. Also Trout will try to make a move and from what happened in “Tattoo” is any guide it only can go south from there.

Lauren + Maggie? Well it looks like Maggie is taking a dip in the younger pool. After Lauren made out with her under a drug induced haze, Maggie finally brought her to the loft. Does this mean Lauren, who is sexually fluid, willing to settle? Not sure where this leads to but it is nice that the writers are acknowledging an LGBT relationship. It was one of my gripes with season one, with the fact that while Liza and Kelsey were getting some action with their perspective partners, Maggie and Lauren were left out of the relationship department. I’m quite curious to see where this will lead.

The return of Martha Plimpton! There is one more person who know who Liza truly is and that is Cheryl Sussman (Martha Plimpton), a former colleague of Liza. She tried once to blackmail Liza to spy for her and while it didn’t succeed their last encounter did leave the door open for her return. I was not disappointed when she showed up in the promo for the rest of season two so I can’t wait for them to see where they take that next. All I know is it sounds like she will blow the whistle on Liza!

Will the truth come out? It’s not sure how but it’s implied that Liza will have to tell the truth to someone else in the cast. The two most likely candidates are Caitlin and Kelsey but potential dark horse could be Trout.  It would be in Liza’s best interest to get an ally in Empirical especially if Sussman goes after her again. Trout is the only other person who might have some leverage against her due to their personal animosity towards each other.

Most of all as long as the show stays fun and interesting, I will stay tuned to “Younger.”

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