Thoughts on Film: “Sully” A solid movie despite some usual biopic hiccups

 

Clint Eastwood’s latest film “Sully,” chronicles the famous ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ one of the most famous crash landings in the history of flight.

Famous of course, for that everyone from the passengers to the crew survived what was thought to be impossible; landing a plane in the middle of a river, in the freezing cold and in New York City, one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Yet on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 bound for Charlotte, did just that. Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and first officer Jeffery Skiles, played by Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart respectively, the plane lands in the Hudson and ‘Sully’ goes from an experienced pilot to an exceptional one.

The film keeps the plot lean by focusing solely on the landing and the subsequent investigation that follows. Eastwood uses the investigation as a framing device to deliver to the audience the famous crash landing not once but twice.

With the plane now out of the freezing waters of the Hudson. The National Transportation Safety Board begins to grill the men for their decision. The inquiry claims that the plane could have made it back to LaGaurdia Airport when one of the engines was not as badly damaged as the men had thought. While Sully tries to explain that it wasn’t possible, one member of the group Charles Porter, a pugnacious Mike O’Malley, digs in.

Faced with the prospect that there was another way to get the passengers to safety, Sully begins to doubt himself. This on top of the surreal and all-too-fast rise to fame makes him feel adrift and isolated, emotions that Hanks captures beautify.

Hanks is also able to convey Sully’s other emotions, but perhaps the most important is the coolness that Sully has about him. Sully rarely raised his voice in the film, he does so once and that’s when he is evacuation the plane and looking to make sure no one is left behind.

The only two cheerleaders in his corner are his wife Lorraine, a concerned Laura Linney and Skiles. Skiles in particular, is adamant that Sully did the right because it was the only thing. That and apparently he didn’t have any ideas on how to land the plane at the moment.

In terms of direction, Eastwood does a wonderful job of recreating the landing. He managed to get the exact boats from the New York Waterway ferry service, which resued the passengers and even one of the pilots, Peter Vincent ‘Vince’ Lombardi, to play himself in the role. Eastwood made the film as accurately as possible even as so far to edit a ring that Sully wears in real life to get the right color.

In the seven years since the landing, the skyline has changed so much that it even made the landing even more astounding.

I myself remember that day, coming home from school and my dad watching the news. I remember the relief I felt when the news broke that all 155 survived the crash. One thing everyone who was on that flight remembers that I do is that it was really cold.

While I’m not sure if “Sully” will get nominated for any Academy Awards, Hanks could very well be an early contender for the award for Best Actor and Eastwood for Director. The film would also do well in the technical department such as Sound and Editing.

The only hiccup is the characterization of the NTSB officials.  Sullenberger himself asked to have the names of the investigators be changed so that they didn’t come off as “prosecutorial,” the fact that they get the tar and feather treatment is a bit unfair.

While Eastwood claimed that as he read the script which depicted the officials ‘railroading’ Sullenberger and Skiles, which put them on the defensive, the real-life investigators were actually astounded by the level of calmness and teamwork the two men had in order to bring the plane to safety.

In fact, the NTSB, which has no regulatory powers in the U.S. government, only makes recommendations. They made 35 safety recommendations as a result of Sullenberger’s historic landing. Even though it’s become practice that some historical aspect is alter to further dramatize the plot, using the NTSB as a scapegoat may create more harm than good when the public, such as myself, are placed in a disaster involving transport.

While I will not damn the film for this, I will advise a word of caution on biopics and for anyone who has seen or yet to see the film. Filmmakers like, Eastwood are amazing at what they do, including creating narratives for an audience to follow. However perception has a funny way of becoming reality for some people. We should be as if not more so because as the old adage goes, you can’t believe everything you read or see these days.

Grade A-

Sully is rated PG-13, Plane landing in the Hudson, ’nuff said.

Top Lines:  

“I would have done it in July”: Last line in the film uttered by Jeffery Skiles.

“The best way to leave from LaGaurdia is to fly from JFK”:  Donna the stewardess as the flight taxis off the runway.

“40 years in the air but in the end and I’m going to be judged on 208 seconds” Sully.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Walking Riverside Drive part 3: The Riverside Delta, Audubon Park, and Riverbank State Park.

Part 3 in a series Part 1 and Part 2 found here.

Okay week three and finally no more highways! Well it’s still below me but for a few blocks I had some peace and quiet. In fact, I was probably the noisiest person on the block. So picking up where I left off I returned to the site where Riverside Drive merges with Riverside Drive West. As I walked on the drive the road rose to go along the side of the hill that the apartment buildings sit on to the right. Most of the pre-war buildings had nice decorative works. A bit on the simple side but bear in mind these apartments were often more spacious than the tenements in Lower Manhattan or down the hill in Harlem for that matter.

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Gothic styled entrance at 909 Riverside Drive

The lower section still has older row houses that survived the rapid development in the 1910’s-1920’s. This was helped by the opening of the subway’s first extension in 1906. The apartments appear spacious and thanks to the funky property lots, it allows better light and air into the apartments.

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Row houses on the lower section Riverside Drive f.k.a Boulevard Lafayette

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Tenement Rows on W. 160th Street.

The upper half of the delta is the long-lost Boulevard Lafayette. The road first appeared in maps dating back to the mid 1800’s. It appears to be an offshoot of Broadway, which at the time the upper section was simply called Boulevard. Around the time Riverside Drive was being proposed it was supposed to terminate at the intersection of 158th and Boulevard Lafayette. How the Grinnell family was able to smooth out the angles is anyone’s guess but I like to think that if they proposed Riverside Drive as a form of improved transportation to the area if any way then it would make the area more desirable. This was accomplished by building the viaducts across Harlem to Audubon Park.

Audubon Park as you can see there were already thinking about Riverside Drive map by the Grinnell family.

The intersection does have one cling to fame. It is referenced in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, where Tom, Nick and Tom’s girlfriend Myrtle Wilson have a party inside Tom and Myrtle’s love nest. While Nick describes the apartment building as “one slice in a long white cake of apartment houses,” for some reason I like to think it’s the Grinnell since they did elevator operators. Also, Fitzgerald was in Paris when he wrote the book so he used his imagination.

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The Grinnell from 158th and Riverside, possibly a location in The Great Gatsby.

Another major development in the neighborhood is Audubon Terrace, which was formerly home to institutions such as the National Museum of the American Indian, American Geographical Society, and the American Numismatic Society. The beautiful complex of Beaux-Arts and American Renaissance architecture was the brainchild of the Huntington family, in particular Archer M. Huntington.

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Audubon Terrace at night

Huntington thought, like most traditionalists of his era that the city’s wealthiest residents would move uptown to today’s Washington Heights. With its commanding views of the area it’s hard not to imagine the upper crust sitting on top. However, with the advent of steel construction, which made building apartments cheaper and faster, developers looked up north to grab what land they could.  The subway also made commuting to lower Manhattan easier, thus attracting more middle class residents not the moneyed or cultured kind that the Huntington’s wanted.

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El Cid the centerpiece of Audubon Terrace sculpture by Anna H. Huntington

Nevertheless, the Huntington’s pressed on, creating or backing institutions that would eventually move uptown to Audubon Terrace. It took nearly three decades to complete the terrace as we see it today. However, it was in the 1930’s, which saw multiple ethnic groups, each having very little to do with the ideals of the institutions that resided there, left them behind. At the same time Audubon Terrace, also turning in on itself, became as the New York Times wrote in 2009, “Upper Manhattan’s lovely but bedraggled cultural acropolis.”

That’s not to say that the Terrace is dead. Boricua College, a bi-lingual college that prides itself on being a non-traditional college, moved into the old Geographical Society building, and the two remaining institutions, the Hispanic Society of America and the American Academy of Arts and Letters have expanded into buildings formerly owned by their neighbors. With a little luck and some more exposure both within the community and the city at large, Audubon Terrace will regain its place in the city’s cultural offerings.

Heading further south I saw this beautiful sculpture called “The Shipwreck.” Which was created from a highway arts program. It faces towards the Hudson River with the bow of the ship facing skyward to show it sinking below the waves or rather into the concrete.

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Shipwreck

As I walked further down, you pass the ominous Trinity Cemetery which looks like your classical creepy neighborhood cemetery, this time of the year. Despite being in Manhattan, it still has space for burials and cremations but space is limited and expensive so do what the living does, move to Brooklyn. Famous people buried there include former mayor Edward I. Koch and writer Ralph Ellison

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Trinity Cemetery I wonder who’s the man on the column?

By now the apartments are beginning to look a bit shabby, due to years of neglect but some are seeing the return to their glory days like 730 Riverside Drive. 730 Riverside Drive or the Beaumont, was the home of author Ralph Ellison, whose book Invisible Man still resonates today as it did when it was published decades ago. In recent years a small yet no less profound monument dedicated to Ellison and the book that defined him grace a garden just steps from his apartment.  The parks department website describes the purpose of sculpture which captures “the themes of Ellison’s novel whose central protagonist wrestles with issues of racial identity.”

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730 Riverside Drive

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The Invisible Man monument to Ellison and his novel sculpture by  Elizabeth Catlett

 

Diagonally across from Ellison’s memorial, is a playground that has two sets of steps leading down to the park and over a set of railway tracks that lead to Penn Station. According to maps, there was once a train station in the vicinity so the bridge was likely added to give passengers access to the station. However, passenger service on the line ended around 1916 only to resume in the 1990’s but without restored stations. A station here might make sense with nearby Riverbank State Park benefiting from better access and in the event of a subway shutdown, it provides an alternate route.

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Bridge and stairway to the overlook

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Tracks to upstate New York and the George Washington Bridge

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The George Washington Bridge under a gloomy grey sky

Speaking of Riverbank State Park, it should be noted that the occasional whiffs of sewage being treated can still occur so I’d advise anyone following in my footsteps to have a full meal and bring water. You might run the risk of dizziness and nausea.

Riverbank State Park is also a classic example of local environmental justice. It took three decades to complete the park after years of protests and delays with the project. The waste-water treatment plant which is underneath the park cost $1.3 Billion dollars. It was according to the blog Place Matters, “it was the largest non-military public works project in the US in 50 years.” However, almost immediately the smell, which was not taken into account exacerbated existing air pollution issues since there is an MTA bus depot and the Henry Hudson Parkway nearby. While the park has been successful in drawing not just local residents but other Manhattanites, that smell and other environmental still lingers from time to time.

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The ominous stacks on top of Riverbank State Park.

Getting back to Riverside Drive from the brief detour, one begins to notice the change in elevation as Broadway is higher up while Riverside Drive is lower, also traffic segregation occurs allowing drivers to speed uptown to George Washington Bridge. In the case of 138th Street, it actually dives down underneath the drive to become 12th Avenue. Case in point

 

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138th Street as it dives under Riverside Drive to become 12th Avenue

 

The only street that meets Riverside Drive on the same level is 135th Street. Which is where I’m going to end part 3 on one of the rarest blocks in Manhattan. The reason being is that it reminds me of old city photos which showed rows and rows of apartment buildings but without trees it’s a throwback to when trees were not consider part of the streetscape in some neighborhoods particularly poorer and working class ones.  The neighborhood, once filled with Irish, German and Jewish residents are now filed with migrants from Latin America. Today, we acknowledge that trees help neighborhoods maintain some ecological footprint but for the current residents, the greenery gives them a reminder of home.

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Looking West on 135th Street to New Jersey still evokes a New York of generations past.

 

So now I’m just about halfway finished with the project but things are going to change once we cross the Riverside Drive viaduct, for we are now entering Riverside Drive’s classical period.

Walking Riverside Drive Part 2: Under the bridge, around a hospital and over 158th street!

This is part two in a series on Riverside Drive. For part one click the link To catch up.  

Hey everyone! Thanks for the feedback and joining me on this project. This will be part two of the project Here we’ll pick up where I left off which was Plaza Lafayette, a small park with a gorgeous view of the George Washington Bridge. One of only three bridges that connects New York City with the state of New Jersey. In fact, the original bridge was actually placed further downtown but opposition by local residents and businesses forced the project uptown. However, their loss was uptown’s gain. Not only did the bridge spur development like Riverside Drive did just a few years prior, it also opened the city of Fort Lee New Jersey, to developers as well.

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George Washington Bridge under cloud cover

The bridge was designed by architect Othmar Ammann, who also designed the Triborough Bridge and the Verazano-Narrows Bridge, won the project out from his own mentor and boss, Gustav Lindenthal. Sadly, this opened a feud between the two architects during the construction of the bridge and likely did not get resolved. Nonetheless, the project was completed in 1931, six months early and under budget. It is one of the most photographed bridges in the world.

As I walked down from Plaza Lafayette, I descended under the arched approach of the bridge and was struck at the view of the skyscrapers that I could still see from this vantage point. The sidewalk continues down the hill to the bottom where Riverside Drive once again joins the Henry Hudson Parkway. Rather than risk going through open traffic, pedestrians can return to Washington Heights via a series of ramps. The ramps however are under a highway interchange between the parkway, the bridge and local streets so while you’re driving you might see the bridge and New Jersey I was in an area that after dark I myself didn’t want to be caught dead in. Nevertheless, I made my way up for air and once again was greeted by the bridge.

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Empire State Building from under the Arch approach to the George Washington Bridge

On another note that interchange claimed one victim.  Before the bridge was opened local residents had access to the park below by a series of stairwells that gave the park a European feel. Sadly the highway interchange blocked the original access point and its replacement, while possibly more ADA compliant is an uninspiring afterthought. Placed in second to the needs of the cars that whizz by. I could have explored the lost stairwell further but something told me some things are best left alone. Especially if you yourself are alone.

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Stairway to nowhere

Haven Avenue is a short nine block street that is not in a straight line. An extension of Riverside Drive perhaps? Well I’ll never know but I can tell you that the street on a Friday afternoon is very quiet. So quiet and so New York in its way that I’m not surprised filming doesn’t take place here on a regular basis. The street is book-ended by both the George Washington Bridge and New York-Presbyterian Hospital complex, giving the street its calm and intimate setting.

The street has mostly Art-Deco and Beaux Arts inspired buildings along its brief run, only punctuated by two modernist apartment buildings and what could only described as a futuristic at best and painfully out of place at worst. 98 Haven Avenue, being built for Columbia University Medical Center’s new Medical and Graduate Education Building, strikes me as a something that belongs downtown say near the Hudson Yards and spoils the uniformity of the street. “The New York Observer” called it “the craziest building in Harlem,” as their title to their article about the structure in 2012.

Side Note: By stating it’s in Harlem and not Washington Heights, it just adds salt to the wound. Then again I’m not surprised, the Observer always struck me as the stereotypical downtowner publication. To them, Harlem and Washington Heights are places to be colonized and homogenized not to be respected in their place in New York’s history. Not to mention the mislabeling is really bloody lazy. I’ve lived in both ‘hoods and believe me when I say this, they are distinctive as they get.

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The future has come to Washington Heights

Hopping off the soap-box, and shaking my head over that crazy building, I walked along the gargantuan complex of building that make up the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. The first buildings opened in 1925 and the hospital has been growing ever since. In fact within 30 years of the hospital’s existence over 100,000 babies were born there. While the complex has modernized over the years the Hospital still retains both a garden and a chapel, a welcome respite from the frenetic pace inside.

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The back-end of the original hospital buildings

Turing onto 165th street, I once again returned to Riverside Drive and was greeted by yet another view of the George Washington Bridge. Nearby was a viewing platform so that joggers and dog walkers can take a break and marvel at one of the country’s greatest creation.

Now heading south again, I was face with another dilemma, I had now two paths to choose from when it comes to Riverside Drive. Due to the Grinnell family, who had been pushing development in the area during the late 1800’s they convinced the city to run Riverside Drive through the property once owned by the neighborhoods namesake John James Audubon. The route change creates the letter D or a Delta shape on the city’s grid. So now I had to choose which side of the D to walk on.

Should I hug the river and see what was next or turn left and admire some more apartment buildings? Realizing that time was getting short, I figured that the river was my best bet. So I walked the so-called Riverside Drive West. As the sun was setting the so-called golden hour illuminated the brick and mortar buildings with a radiance that could make an old and tired building look new, if only for a few minutes.

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Apartment building under that golden hour glow

I was now walking along the second Riverside Drive viaduct, built in 1911 it’s less popular than its Harlem cousin but in my opinion it has a dramatic flair that the other viaduct, striking in its own right, can’t claim. For one, you can still see the Empire State Building from here. The steps that lead to the park below still exist but the highway demolished much of the original park. The park today still serves its residents well despite the Robert Moses gash of a highway nearby.

The sweeping views were so inspiring in the musical department, I threw on Whitney Huston’s “Saving All My Love For You,” because it reminded so much of the music video.  Whitney is walking down The Queen’s Walk, in London realizing that she’s not going to be with her boyfriend who is married by the way. Yet, that sax solo brings me back every time. Today the London Eye sits on that site of 80’s nostalgia.

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Sunset over in New Jersey

So now I’ve made it to the bottom of the viaduct and decided to walk back onto the original Riverside Drive. Almost immediately, I was struck by how beautiful the buildings were. Tucked away from bustle of Broadway and the wide expanse of the viaduct, the buildings were built during the early 20th century when the subway arrived in the neighborhood. At the time these buildings were the cream of the crop housing some wealthy or newly wealthy residents.  Today the buildings are now part of the Audubon Park Historic, designated in 2009.

One building that sticks out is the Grinnell, sitting on a plot of land that was once owned by the family of the same name, the building, built in 1911, commands your attention. According to the website, Audubonparkny.com, which has an extensive history of the micro-neighborhood, the Grinnell was built at a cost of $600,000. Today that would be somewhere between 14 and 15 million dollars. For the first few decades this is what buying an apartment at the time would get you, amenities wise.

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The Grinnell, refered to as “the Dakota of the North” this building is the grand dame of neighborhood.

“The Grinnell had uniformed staff, twenty-four hour elevator service, and mail delivery to apartment doors – twice a day.  Every apartment had a dumbwaiter so that deliveries could be made through the rear entrance and basement.  The dumbwaiters also served to transport rubbish and soiled clothes to the basement, which contained a building-operated laundry.  Until recently, large drying racks remained as a reminder of those days.  Stories passed on by early residents report that the Grinnell’s management gave dances for the residents every spring – on the roof, with a full orchestra.”  

Sounds like a great time, well the cost of an apartment there ranges according to the realtor Streeteasy.com about just over $600,000 to a cool $1,000,000. Cheaper than the Upper West Side but pretty expensive for uptowners like me.

So guys I’m gonna leave it here I will do the rest of the crazy D. Delve into its history and keep on walking!

Stepping into Christmas…just which path should you take?

“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”

This immortal line from the classic Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street sums up my observations of the past few weeks. As the Holiday season goes into full tilt, we are bombarded with the familiar tropes. One, the need to buy gifts for loved ones either the immediate family or close friends, two, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the gifts, and three the trimmings, i.e. the tree, decorations, dinner etc; At the same time there is the classic fight within Christmas. Never have I seen a holiday that creates an inner turmoil that only star-crossed lovers, Woody Allen movies, and Hamlet get stuck with. It all started when the early Christians, who wanted to expand their flock placed Jesus’s birth near the winter solstice, an important holiday in Roman Empire. So important you sang song to your neighbors in the nude. In the short term, it was good idea Romans didn’t have to completely give up their holidays and made the conversion less shocking. However, the merriment that came when they merged the holiday’s together was something few would see coming 2,000 years later.

It’s this Vs….

This Images courtesy of flourishonline.com and puzzles-games.eu

In other words it’s always been a divide between Jesus’s birth and the gift giving merriment that came with it. It’s no wonder Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street feels squeezed. This also has led in the recent fight over two terms for the current season;

Whether to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays.’

If one were to say ‘Merry Christmas’ it acknowledges one holiday but we all know they are more than just one and ‘Happy Holiday’s’ tries to be the more inclusive phrase to say when multiple holidays share the week or month.

Yet the debate over whether or not we should use one or the other is at times both mystifying and silly.

The debate works out like this; those in favor of ‘Happy Holiday’s’ (HH), say that it benefits those who don’t normally celebrate or observe Christmas and prevents the crowding out  effect that Christmas often does to other holidays that are celebrated in the vicinity of Christmas such as Hanukah and Kwanza. It also reduces the risk of the assumption that everyone celebrates the same holiday.

On the other end of the spectrum those who favor ‘Merry Christmas’ (MC), say that one holiday does not equate the other and putting them all together makes them less meaningful. They also claim that choosing HH prohibits their freedom of speech and the expression of their faith. MC’s also argue that many other ethnic minority groups don’t grouse about saying HH and really don’t care one way or the other on the matter.

So to sum up the fight is between evangelical Christians against Atheists and those who prefer to be politically correct.

To be fair, evangelicals are trying to at least bring back the Christ in Christmas, who argue that the holiday has become too secular. At the same time however, those who advocate for HH say we do have to acknowledge that our world is no longer the one of Norman Rockwell like bliss and it would be foolish to think that Christmas is some sort of purity contest.

A few years back, the debate took a strange turn when a church in Dallas, which will remain anonymous, created a ‘Grinch Alert’ for businesses that did not use the word Christ, Santa or followed what they considered ‘traditional’ Christmas.

Those businesses who did not comply with these requirements were on their so-called naughty list and the church’s parishioners could avoid these place during the holiday season.

The businesses they went after included a local bank for not having a Christmas tree, a major airline for saying holiday’s too much and if that wasn’t enough, a cashier doomed an entire department store because him or her said ‘you too’ instead of saying MC to the customer back. Talk about getting scrooged

Others in the Dallas religious community immediately disagreed with the method of how the church attacked these businesses saying it made everyone look bad and proved once again that the U.S. Constitution is a two way street. If you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, you definitely can’t tell half a city that they have to adhere to a standard for Christmas because you think you first amendment rights are being threatened. (Which I highly doubt the founding fathers thought it was going to get this personal).

I myself have often found myself torn between the two. I think personally we should alternate, one of the best things about Christmas is that you make your own traditions and never apologize for how you choose to celebrate. Of course, you choose to allow how you need Christmas in your life, just remember two things; it’s not a purity contest and keep your heart and head open.

After that is what Christmas is all about, the joy you pass on to others.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Festivus for the rest of us and Winter Solstice if your Wicca. And have a Happy New Year!