Posted tagged ‘Downtown Manhattan’

One World Trade (Looking Tall)

March 15, 2013


A few days ago, I posted a picture taken of One World Trade Center, the replacement for the old World Trade Towers, taken at night in fog and looking very foreshortened. I thought people might find it interesting to see the building from a different perspective which shows it to be really very tall. (This picture was taken last night.) It will be 104 stories when completed and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. For a sense of perspective – the building on the far left side — the World Financial Center–is over 40 stories.

Mosque Near Ground Zero – Really? (Park51)

August 10, 2010

What's Going On Now at WTC Site

I’m not a huge fan of Islam–I don’t know enough about it to have a position of any substance.  I admit that I am suspicious of any faith which seems to keep women in a subordinate position (but that makes me suspicious of many orthodox faiths).

As a result, perhaps, I haven’t much followed the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate, even though I live in downtown Manhattan.  Based on the extent of emotion stirred up, I thought the mosque was planned for the actual Ground Zero site; that it was somehow, with other shrines, to be on one of the memorial “footprints” of the two towers.   Despite my own strong bed towards religious tolerance, I could understand why this might upset some.

After actually reading more, however, I’ve realized how misguided I’ve been; that the whole issue is another tempest based on stewpot of misrepresentation.  The planned Mosque isn’t to be at the Ground Zero site at all; but on Park Place (Park51) , a couple of blocks away.

Okay, Park Place is near Ground Zero in the same way that anything in downtown Manhattan is near Ground Zero.  Downtown Manhattan is the thinnest part of the island; the World Trade Center site is large.

If you live down here, you quickly realize that everything (especially the subway stations) is both close and far – that is, technically, just a few blocks away, but a long frigging walk.  Blocks are big, and the differentials in blocks–in cityscape, tenor, view, even in weather (wind shear)– are consequential.

The news accounts highlight factors such as “500 yards” and “13 stories” in a way that gives one the  vision of a face-off–  Ground Zero on one side, the Mosque (whose visitors will surely be tittering inside) on the other.   These terms are just ridiculous in the context of downtown Manhattan.  500 yards = if that’s even accurate–is many buildings away;   13 stories is a shrimp.

What makes the debate stranger – setting aside the whole issue of what this country and city stand for – are the facts of what is currently happening at Ground Zero:

Hawking.  People selling ghoulish photo albums and NYFD hats and cheap American flags with the names of victims stenciled in.


Shopping.  Right opposite the site stands a true world trade center – Century 21.

And, on the site itself,  which, as some 9/11 families have pointed out, is a de facto burial ground due to the impossibility of recovering ashen remains, a large building is rapidly rising, destined to lease commercial and office space.

(THIS POST HAS BEEN CORRECTED; An earlier version mistakenly referred to the location of the proposed mosque as Park Row – a couple of blocks east of the WTC, rather than Park Place, a couple of blocks north.)

Missed The Kandinsky Show? One More Reason to Leave New York?

January 18, 2010

Wassily Kandinsky, The Garden of Love (Improvisation No. 27), Alfred Stieglitz Collection, The Metropolitan Museum, New York

This weekend, possibly my 1500th weekend in New York City, I asked myself once again whether I should keep living here.  Here’s a bit of the analysis:

Why You Might Leave

1.  The last play you saw (on Broadway or Off) was The Fantasticks.  (Not in revival.)

2.  About 60% of the apartment that you spend about 60% of your disposable income upon is used for storage.

3.  Repeat, in case some of that last bit was unclear:  you spend about (at least) 60% of your disposable income on said apartment.

4.  One of the best things about that income-expending apartment is that it is located in a part of New York City that hardly feels like New York City.

5.  More importantly, you love Kandinsky.  Boy, do you love Kandinsky.  What, the Kandinsky show closed already?  After only 4 months!?

6.  You pride yourself on knowing such esoteric things as the location of the very best public bathrooms in downtown Manhattan.  (The fifth floor of the Surrogate’s Court building.  The cubicle doors are made of real wood with real carved patterns.)

7.   No, you didn’t get to the William Blake show at the Morgan either.  Is it still open?  (You’re too tired earning disposable income for that apartment that you store your stuff in to check.)

8.  The stress of the City has turned you into a vampire junkie. (There’s something about sucked-out lifeblood that really speaks to you.)    Let’s just say that the last movie you went to was not an art film.

Why Stay

1. The last time you drove a car was almost a year ago.  You don’t miss the experience.

2.   You never really get tired of the Kandinskys that are part of the permanent collections of the Met, Modern and Guggenheim.

3.   The Met also has some good Blakes.

4.  The ladies’ room in the Surrogate’s Court building (fifth floor) really is extremely nice.

5. Your apartment has great closets (at least for the City.)

6.   And is below market rates.  Meaning that there are people paying even more for even less. (Question:  does that truly make you feel better?  Answer:  yes.)

7. Besides that, there’s a gym in your building where, every evening, you can read vampire novels while working out on the elliptical machine.  Yes, they are vampire novels, but hey! you’re working out.

8.  More importantly, said apartment is located in a part of New York City that doesn’t feel like New York City, but is in fact a part of  New York City.

9. Where you can walk nearly anywhere.

10.  Even to permanently-hanging Kandinskys.

11.  Aaah.

Faux Fir, Birch, Time

December 5, 2009

My little piece of Manhattan (way downtown) has been transforming itself.  Faux fir, twinkly lights, and all manner of gilded Christmas ornamentation, have infiltrated almost every public space.

The decorations are intended to inspire Christmas cheer.    Instead, they usually make me feel guilty, irritated.    (So much to do, and now Christmas!)   I sometimes think I’d just rather have big neon signs blinking,  “Shop Shop Buy Buy”.

What especially bothers me are the white sprays of some kind of wooden (or plastic) branches that seem intended to represent birch.

I’m not sure what birch has to do with Christmas.  (In fact, the branches may actually represent some variation of ice storm rather than birch.)

Their starkness, leaflessness, has a morbid quality.    Even punitive–I think of  the switches given to bad children by some European version of Santa Claus—the Italian witch La Befana?

The sprays of birch” may especially bring me down because the main place I see them is the South Bridge, an overpass over the West Side Highway, which is one of the prime viewing spots for Ground Zero.  The stark white branches punctuate each window except for the one with the best bee-line view of the old World Trade Center site.    (That last bunch of birches has been tactfully moved inward to an interior wall.)

The fire station directly across from Ground Zero is also festooned with a thick ornamented bunting.    Tourists peer in its garage.  The 9/11 Tribute Center next store sells teddy bears.

I know all of this is part of the natural progress of time—the transition of these few acres from unintended graveyard to must-see tourist sight;  I’m sure it’s all good on some level, as well as inevitable.

So why does it bother me?

Simple snobbery?  A bit.  Some of the decorations seem kind of plasticky.  Though actually, they are pretty nice for plasticky.  Also re-usable.   I can testify to this re-usability because they are exactly the same the year as the year before, and too, the year before that.

This, I realize, is what truly bothers me. The “before” element, the “last year” piece.  It seems too soon for Christmas decorations to be up again;  too quick for “before” to have become “again”.

(I’m not referring here to the fact that it’s too early to celebrate Christmas.   That prematurity was also the same last year.)

No, what bothers me is that it’s too soon to be this year.  Where did the last one go?   I can come up with specific moments, but certainly not 525600.

The idyllic version of time passing shows  leaves turning red, snow falling, that electric lime green of spring, black-eyed susans reaching out to a brilliant summer sky.

But here we are in downtown New York City.  Faux fir sprouts, dead white “birch” splays, ornaments blossom.

All this time I thought those decorations were goading me to shop, but what they were really telling me was to pay attention.  Right here, right now.

In the midst of that realization, I hurry on to work, late again.

Proposed 9/11 Trial in Downtown Manhattan

November 16, 2009

I live in downtown Manhattan, all too close to Ground Zero.  I did not live quite as close on September 11, 2001, but close enough.  I saw the second plane hit, ran down the blocks from my apartment to the site.  I remember trying to moisten towels before I headed down there with some idea that these would be useful for breathing through smoke and dust, but the water pressure was so low, and the emotional pressure so high, that I can’t be sure if I actually either wet the towels, or carried them.   For weeks and months afterwards, the smoke and smell of the extinguished towers hung over our daily lives; for years afterwards, it’s caused great sadness.

It’s also instilled a fear of further terrorism.   It is difficult for me, for example, to leave family members in Manhattan if I need to travel elsewhere.   Many who live in this neighborhood hate the fireworks over the Hudson River,  summer nights.   I don’t mind the fireworks but I freely confess that I may not be able to continue living here once the “Freedom Tower” actually goes up.

As an already terrorized New Yorker,  I am fearful of any activity that makes downtown Manhattan a greater target.  We have already been through the trial of 9/11 itself down here.  But my stronger, and perhaps overly-idealistic, feeling is that  you have to at least try to live your beliefs, both on a personal and national level.  If you tout your legal system, then you have to trust it.  If the whole conflict is about what the U.S. stands for (other than materialism), then we have to actually stand for those things, things like trials.

Even as I wish it weren’t all going to take place just a few blocks away.

Hey Rob! Hey Kristen! The Jury’s In Session!

October 26, 2009

I’ve always thought that one of the biggest difficulties faced by any celebrity is the inability to spend time peacefully and quietly in public.

Robert Pattinson (surprise!) is an obvious case in point.  This, in fact, is one of the main reasons I am so interested in him.  (NOT because of his chiseled good looks, his self-deprecating charm, any confusion I have between him and Edward Cullen, the sweet, rich, loving, handsome vampire he portrays.  Not even his hair.)

No, I find Rob fascinating simply (okay, partly) as a study in modern day fame:  the poor guy’s life has been upended.

Sure, there’s been good stuff—movie contracts, money,  a possible love relationship with Kristen Stewart.

But look at what’s come along with all of that—virtual (in all senses of the word) non-stop surveillance.

Rob may be fairly private in his hotel room (maybe), but he cannot do anything in a public space without the constant click and taunt of paparazzi–paparazzi, combined with the more welcome, but undoubtedly wearing, attention of fans.

What’s a teen idol to do?

Jury Duty!

I have recent first hand experience of jury duty (if not, of actually serving on a jury), so I feel quite qualified to make this recommendation.

Think about it, Rob.  Jury duty has not even been that bad for me, who, despite my persistent blogging, does not have either name or face recognition.  For someone like you, who could not film Remember Me on the streets of New York this past summer without (a) a security detail, (b) a Pattinson “lookalike” (or at least “dressalike”),  (c) a 7ft. high wooden box to stand behind; and (d) a gang of paparazzi, jury duty could be a real godsend.

Here’s why:

1.  Photographic devices are not allowed into most court facilities.  (Which is great news for the media-pressured; the soft shushing of colored pencils is a lot more soothing than camera clicks.)

2.  There are loads of law enforcement officers in courthouses either (a) enforcing the law, or (b) under indictment.  Either way, they will not take kindly to paparazzi pulling out their iPhones for a sneaky snap.

3.  The jury areas  (at least in New York County) are quite pleasant, especially if you avoid the relative comfy seats in the main windowless jurors area, and go for the uncrowded wooden benches in the outside hall where large, south-facing, windows give sunny views of downtown Manhattan.  (It’s almost like a spa!  With benches!)

4.  Okay, the pay’s a six or seven digit cut from your current wage scale, but jury duty offers a young actor a great opportunity to study human nature in all its varieties and vagaries.  The emotional gamut runs from bored, to worried, to bored, to scared stiff, to bored, to deceptive, to bored, to confessional, to bored, to greatly greatly relieved, to very very sorry.

5.  Not only no paparazzi, no werewolves.

6.  And, hey, Rob, if you’re enjoying the peace and quiet, you can  volunteer for a three-month trial.  (They may even let Kristen serve too!)

For more Rob, Kristen, Robsten, Twilight,  and other silliness of many descriptions,  check out other posts  from my homepage –

Also, if interested in children’s books, check out 1 Mississippi, by Karin Gustafson, at link on homepage, or on Amazon.