Day 580

Baladev and Sarah

August 1st, 2013



are enjoying the rain — a welcome break from the oppressive summer heat — at the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race. Vasu has taken the lead since our last visit, and he'll finish tomorrow. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss it, as I'll be out of town for the next few days.

Day 585


Day 585

The final finish

August 6th, 2013



I just got back into town and missed Nidhruvi crossing the finish line of the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race by about five minutes. Twelve runners started the race this year, and she's the last of the eight who finished. I spent more time at the race last year, and saw a few finishes, so you can peruse my 2012 race photos if you want to get a better sense of this astounding annual event. And for an in-depth and awesomely photographed look at this year's contest, check out Utpal Marshall's blog, Perfection Journey.

Day 587

Barberz #84

August 8th, 2013



I wasn't officially walking today, but I had to document this barberzhop that I overlooked when I first passed it by last year.

Day 587




As we've seen, the Royal Kingbee, well known for his omnipresence on the walls of Bronx Rite Aids, has made a move into the East Village. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before he turned up outside one of the chain's drug stores here in Manhattan.

Day 588


I was just heading north tonight on Lafayette Street when I noticed an open gate at Jones Alley. The inner gate was still locked, so I couldn't go very far, but I had to take the opportunity to cover a tiny bit of new ground.

Day 589


Day 589

Park Avenue Tunnel

August 10th, 2013



This 150-some-year-old railroad-turned-automobile tunnel beneath Park Avenue is normally off limits to pedestrians, but the city DOT has decided to open it to foot traffic as part of this year's Summer Streets, "an annual celebration of New York City’s most valuable public space—our streets. On three consecutive Saturdays in the summer, nearly seven miles of NYC’s streets are opened for people to play, walk, bike, and breathe." It's the first time the public has been allowed to walk through the tunnel since the 1930s (or ever, depending on your source).

Day 589

Voice Tunnel

August 10th, 2013



In addition to being open to pedestrians, the Park Avenue Tunnel has been transformed into Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Voice Tunnel during this year's Summer Streets. You can watch a short video about the installation here.

Day 589

Voice Tunnel

August 10th, 2013



by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Day 589

Up on the viaduct

August 10th, 2013



The Park Avenue Viaduct (a.k.a. "Overhead Roadways around Grand Central Terminal") — another cool piece of infrastructure only accessible to pedestrians during Summer Streets

Day 589

Back home again

August 10th, 2013



This big cast-iron eagle is one of perhaps ten or twelve similar sculptures that once stood atop the old Grand Central Station. They were installed during the turn-of-the-20th-century reconstruction of the station, which had previously been known as Grand Central Depot (and which featured a breathtaking iron and glass arched train shed). When the station was demolished and replaced by the current Grand Central Terminal in the early 20th century, the birds took flight, ending up in the hands of several different people and institutions. Their whereabouts are now mostly known, thanks to the efforts of a couple of dedicated eagle hunters.

The eagle pictured above landed at a Capuchin seminary in Garrison, New York, where it remained until 2001, when the friars donated it to the MTA. It has since returned to Grand Central and can now be seen perched on the building's southwest corner, making it the second eagle to have found its way back home after the diaspora. One of the aforementioned eagle hunters was not happy with this choice of location, however, telling the NY Times that placing the bird in such a prominent spot would be a "travesty" and "would aversely affect the view of Grand Central that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis fought so hard to preserve."

Day 589

The viaduct’s eastern leg

August 10th, 2013



Heading north, the eastern branch of the Park Avenue Viaduct passes through the bottom of the Helmsley Building, descending to street level and rejoining the western (southbound) lanes of Park Avenue at 46th Street.

Day 589

Rounding the final bend

August 10th, 2013



Inside the Helmsley Building on the eastern (northbound) leg of the Park Avenue Viaduct, almost back at street level

Day 589

St. Bartholomew’s

August 10th, 2013



Back in the 1980s, the rector of St. Bart's led a divisive and controversial attempt to secure the church's finances with the construction of a towering glass skyscraper on the site of its community house (the brick and stone building extending from the right side of the church). His plan was strongly opposed not only by preservationists (including, once again, Jackie Kennedy Onassis), but by many parishioners as well.

When the skyscraper scheme met its official demise in 1991 at the hands of the Supreme Court, the church seemed to be on its last legs, with dwindling attendance and a shrinking endowment. But a new rector took the reins in 1994, introducing a "theology of radical welcome" and gradually bringing people back to the church. By the time he retired early last year, the congregation had grown from 150 to almost 3,400. (He also had his own ideas for making some money off the community house: he opened a restaurant inside it, with a warm-weather outdoor dining area, visible above, on the church's terrace.)

Factlet of the day: St. Bart's has the largest organ in NYC!

Day 589

Portal of the day

August 10th, 2013



This triple portal at St. Bartholomew's was originally part of a prior incarnation of the church several blocks away.

Day 589

Nice hat

August 10th, 2013



In the foreground: the men-only Racquet and Tennis Club, "home to some of the most arcane sports in the world". Rising behind it: Park Avenue Plaza, whose developers bought the club's air rights for $5 million in the late 1970s after "perhaps the biggest game of real estate 'chicken' ever played in New York." The biggest, sure, but certainly not the most hilarious.

Day 589

If they mated…

August 10th, 2013



Flavor Flav and a Siamese connection

Day 589

The New Colossus

August 10th, 2013



is the name of this bronze replica of Scabby the Rat currently on view at Lever House. The courtyard in which the rat sits is private property, but it's open to the public at all times, with one exception. "In a practice going back to 1953 and a custom that can be traced to Anglo-Saxon England", the courtyard is closed for part of one day each year to provide the owners with a solid legal defense against any potential claims of adverse possession, even though it now "seems inconceivable that Park Avenue passers-by could ever make a claim that they are the actual owners of Lever House’s courtyard."

Day 589

The Waldorf-Astoria

August 10th, 2013



Ever since I watched Coming to America as a kid, the Waldorf has been synonymous in my mind with luxury. So I was quite surprised when I moved to New York and saw how dirty its facade was. I assumed this must be an old joke around here, this fancy hotel with the gross-looking exterior, but no one ever seemed to know what I was talking about when I brought it up. Even online I could only find one mention, on some weird website, about this "pitiful sight".

Well, as you can see, the building has finally been given a thorough cleaning. Surely, I thought, this would be big enough news to merit at least a passing mention on a blog somewhere. But there's nothing! The whole internet is silent about it.

Until now.

Day 589

The Kings of Summer Streets

August 10th, 2013



The skeleton's legs move with the pedals!

Day 589



Day 589

Back on the viaduct

August 10th, 2013



With Summer Streets still in full swing, I'm looking down at the Yellow River of 42nd Street from the Park Avenue Viaduct.

Day 589

Illumination

August 10th, 2013



at 275 Madison Avenue

Day 589




During the last few decades of his life, the visionary inventor, who at one point had a laboratory located down the block at 8 West 40th Street, came here to Bryant Park on a regular basis to feed his beloved pigeons.

In his words:

Sometimes I feel that by not marrying I made too great a sacrifice to my work . . . so I have decided to lavish all the affection of a man no longer young on the feathery tribe. I am satisfied if anything I do will live for posterity. But to care for those homeless, hungry or sick birds is the delight of my life. It is my only means of playing.
and:
I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me.

I loved that pigeon as a man loves a [woman], and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.

Day 590

A backyard no more

August 11th, 2013



The Timeshare Backyard has bitten the dust; the lot has been sold to a developer.

Day 603


Day 603

9/11 memorial #163

August 24th, 2013



Mounted on a fire truck parked outside Staten Island's Engine Company 168/EMS Battalion 23 firehouse

Day 603

Firehouse memorial

August 24th, 2013



to EMS Lieutenant Brendan Pearson

Day 603

’72 Checker Marathon

August 24th, 2013



A halfhearted attempt to pass as a classic NYC taxicab

Day 603

St. Joseph’s Cemetery

August 24th, 2013



Established in 1862, according to an engraved stone at the entrance

Day 603

Son Joseph

August 24th, 2013



at St. Joseph's

Day 603

Out on the curb

August 24th, 2013



An old Singer sewing machine cabinet

Day 603

A reasonable request

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

’63 Mercury Comet

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

First fig of the year!

August 24th, 2013



Something I never knew before I started this walk: there are approximately 500 gazillion fig trees in New York City. In many parts of the outer boroughs, I'll see a dozen or more each day. This particular fig is of the Brown Turkey variety, but you can find other types growing in the city as well.

And let's not forget: figs are actually inside-out inflorescences — each of those fleshy little strands is actually a tiny flower! But how on earth do these flowers get pollinated? As we learned earlier, figs have an amazing relationship with a very small, specialized kind of wasp:

A female wasp of this type is able to crawl inside a fig through a tiny opening opposite the stem. Once inside, she lays her eggs, and in the process transfers pollen from the fig in which she was born. The larvae feed on the individual flowers in which they are growing until they reach maturity, at which point the males and females mate. The males then chew tunnels leading out of the fig and subsequently die, and the females (bearing pollen from the fig's flowers) escape through these tunnels and seek out new figs in which they can lay eggs of their own.
Things get a bit more complicated — and interesting — with gynodioecious species (whose ranks include the figs typically grown in the US); you can learn more about them here if you are so inclined.

I should also note that the fig cultivars generally found in NYC, like the Brown Turkey, are parthenocarpic, which means they produce sterile fruit that does not require pollination — or wasps — to develop. (California's Calimyrna figs, on the other hand, must be pollinated for the fruit to mature. This has resulted in a strange-looking annual ritual in which paper bags are stapled to thousands of acres of fig trees.)

(Sound/look familiar?)

Day 603

Awesome mailbox #81

August 24th, 2013


Day 603




Preying on pollinators?

Day 603

NOT RECYCLE BOTTLES

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

The former P.S. 6

August 24th, 2013



I'm not sure when the squat brick addition in the front was built, but the more elaborate structure rising behind it, currently home to a dance studio, deli, and kids' party center, was erected in 1901 as a public school. After the school closed in 1945, the building became a factory for the Marimac Novelty Company.

Day 603

Veins

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

CARP

August 24th, 2013



I think these massive steel braces are going to be (or maybe already have been) used for trench shoring during the installation of new sewer and water lines in the area.

Day 603




This cemetery ("one of the nation's most important black burial grounds") and its associated church were established around 1850 by residents of Sandy Ground, a community of free blacks dating back to the late 1820s. By the 1850s, many African-American oystermen and their families had moved to the area from Maryland, driven north by a series of racial laws enacted by the state that made it difficult for them to do business there. They were attracted to Sandy Ground because of its proximity to the renowned oyster beds of Prince's Bay, just a couple of miles to the south.

Oystering became the central industry of Sandy Ground, and the village thrived for several decades before gradually falling into decline after heavy pollution and outbreaks of typhoid led to the closing of Staten Island's oyster beds in 1916. Fires in 1930 and 1963 further decimated the surviving community, but there are still a handful of families in the area who can trace their lineage back to the original black settlers.

(If you look closely, you can see a deer prancing around the edge of the cemetery.)

Day 603

Another shot of the cemetery

August 24th, 2013



Look closely again; you can see two deer this time — a doe and a fawn. There was a third one traipsing about as well, but I can't spot it in this photo.

Day 603



Day 603

Block party!

August 24th, 2013



An annual summer tradition on Correll Avenue, according to the fourth person I asked. The first three had no clue — most of the people here seemed to be from out of town (or at least out of neighborhood).

Day 603

Awesome mailbox #82

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

Awesome mailbox #83

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

Trench shoring in action

August 24th, 2013


Day 603

Porzio’s Pond

August 24th, 2013