Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NYC Summer Streets

August 4 was the first day of the NYC Summer Streets for 2012.  From 7 am to 1 pm, for the first three Saturdays of August, nearly seven miles of New York City's streets along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue will be opened up for everyone to play, run, walk and bike.

Walking on a vehicle-less street is an offer I couldn't refuse.  I started at the corner of 28th Street and 6th Avenue, then walked crosstown towards Park Avenue.  While at 5th Avenue waiting for the walk sign, I looked south and saw the Flatiron Building.

Looking north, my view was the Empire State Building and the clock tower of the Marble Collegiate Church.

Walking onward, I reached Park Avenue and saw people walking while some were jogging or in rollerblades.  There were a lot of bikers, too.  It was unusual to see Park Avenue free of vehicles, but a joy to walk on.

At the Schwarzenbach Building between 31st and 32nd Streets, I saw the Silk Clock or Wizard Clock.

According to Scouting New York:
It was designed by McKim, Mead & White, and artist William Zorach. Apparently, this is not Merlin, but is in fact Zoroaster, “the mastermind and doer of all things.” At his feet is a cocoon, and beyond sits a slave representing the “primitive forces and instincts of man.” But it gets even better: Zoroaster waves his wand on the hour, and “the slave swings a hammer against the cocoon, triggering the emergence of the ‘Queen of Silk’, tulip in her hand, and not until the hour has ceased striking does she disappear.”
Walking further I had another awesome view of the Empire State Building taken from 33rd Street.

From 40th Street to 46th Street along Park Avenue is the Park Avenue viaduct which provides a pedestrian-, bicycle-, and bus-free express route for taxicabs and other automobile traffic.  That Saturday, it was the other way around as the viaduct was vehicle-free and full of pedestrians and bicycles.
From the south, traffic from Park Avenue or the Park Avenue Tunnel enters a ramp which rises a "T" above 42nd Street, over the street-level entrance to Grand Central Terminal below; side lanes of Park Avenue descend from 40th to end at 42nd Street. The elevated roadway then passes in front of Grand Central Terminal and around it to the east, passing the MetLife Building and descending again to ground level through the east portal in the Helmsley Building, arriving at 46th Street. Traffic coming from the north reverses this pattern.
The beautiful clock on top of the Grand Central Terminal's facade featuring Mercury, Hercules and Athena carved by the John Donnelly Company, and designed by French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan greeted us as we came up the ramp.

Here's a closer look ..

That clock contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass.  At the time of its unveiling (1914) this trio was considered to be the largest sculptural group in the world. It was 48 feet (14.6 m) high, the clock in the center having a circumference of 13 feet (4 m).

This clock is at the facade of Grand Central Terminal along 42nd Street. Standing on the ramp, here's my view of 42nd Street looking east.

If you look up from the street view, you can see the eagles jutting out near the top of the Chrysler Building.

And at ramp level is another beautiful building, which used to be the Bowery Savings Bank but now houses a Cipriani's restaurant.  The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1996. Here's a shot of the building's arches.

You can see one of the cast-iron eagles at the east side of the elevated roadway but since I decided to walk on the west side of the viaduct, I wasn't able to take a pic of the eagle. Here's a pic I took of the eagle some months ago.

I exited the eastern part of the Park Avenue viaduct through the Helmsley Building back to ground level, with the building's arches setting a nice view of Park Avenue.

Getting back into the street level of Park Avenue, I looked back to take a pic of the clock at the facade of the Helmsley Building.

After walking a few blocks, I came upon the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  Look closely and you can see the gold eagle decorating its flag holder.

And looking back again at the Helmsley Building, I can now clearly see its tower from where I was standing.

A couple of blocks away is historic St. Bartholomew's Church.  The Cippolino marble used in its columns is unfit for New York’s climate and it has weathered badly.  Hopefully, there is some restoration work done.

Here's a pic of one of the church's bronze baptistry door along Park Avenue.

Walking further I saw some kids enjoying a huge inflatable chair in one of the buildings along Park Avenue. Guess it would make a good present to your couch potato friend.

In the same area, I passed by an open fire hydrant and some folks were enjoying the summer day getting wet.

By this time I was near the Seagram Building where Park Avenue's newest public art can be seen.  It features nine colorful gigantic works of Niki de Saint Phalle.  This is the first sculpture I came across, you can see and read about the rest on my previous blog.

After I got to the end of the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit, it was already past 1 pm and traffic along Park Avenue has resumed.  However, I still continued walking up to 72nd Street in Central Park but instead of walking straight ahead along Park Avenue, I detoured to Central Park when I reached 60th Street.  That's the southeast part of Central Park where you can see the Pond and Gapstow Bridge.

I walked past many familiar places which I featured in some of my previous blogs.  On the way, I passed by the statue of Balto and couldn't resist taking a pic.

The NYC Summer Streets ended at 72nd Street in Central Park which is near the Conservatory Water.  I stopped there to have lunch at the Kerbs Ice Cream Café and watch the toy boats idly pass by. 

It was a tiring walk but made worthwhile by all the wonderful things I saw along the way, and most importantly, just by the sheer joy of walking.  The NYC Summer Streets ended last August 18.  I wasn't able to participate on the other Saturdays but I'm planning to walk again next year, hopefully, a longer one than my walk the first Saturday of August.

For the rest of my pics, here's the album on Flickr - NYC Summer Streets

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Park Avenue features Niki de Saint Phalle

As I was nearing the Seagram Building while walking last Saturday along the vehicle-less Park Avenue during the first NYC Summer Streets, I remembered walking the same route one day last spring in search of Rafael Barrios' works which I wrote about in a previous blog.  I was expecting to see the familiar floating-like shapes but what greeted me were full-sized, very colorful objects.  It was then that I realized Park Avenue has a new public art on display. Featuring nine gigantic works of sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, I just had to stop and take pictures of all of them.

According to the NYC Parks website:
Niki de Saint Phalle’s signature work comes to Park Avenue with this major, site-specific installation. Ten sculptures made of polyester resin, with mosaics of ceramic, mirror, and stained glass tower above the crowds and traffic at as high as 16 feet tall and 13 feet wide. The internationally acclaimed artist’s sculptural nanas, totems, athletes, and jazz musicians are playful and dynamic, bringing new life to Park Avenue. This exhibition coincides with the ten year commemoration of Niki de Saint Phalle’s passing, celebrating the life and achievements of a monumental artist. 
This exhibition is presented by the Nohra Haime Gallery.
The first four artworks came from de Saint Phalle's Nana series. These feature huge female figures inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarice Rivers, the wife of American artist Larry Rivers. Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'.

The first figure was was titled Nana on a Dolphin.

Here's a pic taken from the back part ..

And a close up of the dolphin.

Each artwork is accompanied by a sign indicating the title of the work, the year it was made, and what it's made of.

Nana on a Dolphin is situated across the Racquet and Tennis Club Building on the west side and the Seagram Building on the east. Unlike the Rafael Barrios exhibit, the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit are closely spaced, only about a block or two between each artwork.

The next artwork features three full-bodied women titled Les Trois Graces.

Looks like they're enjoying their dance. Here are close-up pics of the other two.

Saint Phalle's website states that she has always admired American Indian totems and felt they contained a spiritually protective, mysterious glow. One of her totem works is the third artwork on the exhibit, the Grand Step Totem, which features a Nana-like mother and her child under a deity represented by a mask.

Here's the back part of the artwork.

The fourth artwork is titled Les Baigneurs which features a couple in their swimsuits.

I don't know the significance of the spider but here's a close-up pic.

After the four artworks above, the next four feature de Saint Phalle's Black Heroes series, a homage to prominent African-Americans.

Complete in 2000, Nike de Saint Phalle’s Black Heroes series was truly important to the family and life of the artist. Her work aims to bring joy to and inspire viewers, and this endeavor was no exception. As a child, Saint Phalle searched for heroes and cultural icons to look up to and wanted to instill the same ideas into her biracial great-grandson. Saint Phalle chose prominent and inspiring members of the African American community related to sports or music to highlight in the Black Heroes series.
Niki de Saint Phalle called San Diego home from 1994 until her death in 2002.  She came to San Diego because of the fantastic climate but ironically and sadly, the art ultimately caused her death. She used polyester to create her fanciful sculptures and the polyester fumes brought on emphysema and she died in 2002 in La Jolla, California.

The fifth artwork on this display is called #19 Baseball Player, a homage to Tony Gwynn, retired from the San Diego Padres.

Another shot taken from a different angle

Walking further, I have this great view of the back of the next artwork. Hmm, looks like a basketball player.

Now, i see the number on the player's jersey, and I guess we all know who it belongs to. #23 Basketball Player was created in 1999 to represent the incomparable skills of the NBA’s most famous athlete, Michael Jordan.  He is depicted doing the “slam dunk” while the silver sculpture underneath is a spirit that lifts him to unimaginable heights.

The next artwork is that of Miles Davis, the jazz great wears a coat of many colors and is seen blowing a golden trumpet.

The back of the sculpture.

The last of the Black Heroes series features Louis Armstrong with a golden trumpet.

Here's the musician at the center of Park Avenue.

The last and final artwork gracing Park Avenue is the Serpent Tree, kind of reminds me of the Hydra in Greek mythology.

Here's a pic taken from a closer angle, the colors are just gorgeous. I've seen some pics of this artwork as a fountain with water pouring out of the serpents' mouths.

So I've come to the end of the exhibit.  Despite what is stated in the NYC Parks website, there are only nine sculptures, not ten.  

Ahh, that was a feast for the eyes! I'm hoping to come back and stroll along Park Avenue again, and enjoy the sculptures, the colors, the vibrancy of each piece .. and I still have three more months to enjoy them before the exhibit ends on November 15.

For the rest of my Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue pics, here's the album on Flickr.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pier 62 Carousel and Gardens

Last 4th of July I visited two carousels, one in Central Park and the other in Bryant Park.  I know there are more carousels in the city than those two so I looked it up and found out about the Pier 62 carousel.

The Pier 62 carousel is just a couple of years old.  Installed in April 2010, it has twelve sections, eleven with three rows each section for a total of 33 figures and one section is a seat that is ADA/wheelchair accessible.

Since the carousel spins along the Hudson River, majority of the figures therein represent creatures indigenous to the Hudson River area.
The inspiration for the carousel frame design is reminiscent of a ships spars and timbers to honor the history of the harbor. Without the inclusion of a typical carousel façade, this carousel highlights the industrial components of the carousel frame and mechanism.

The figures feature animals indigenous to the Hudson River Valley, including several new figures that were created especially for this carousel – Crawfish, Horseshoe Crab & Eel, Cormorant, Blue Bird, Beaver, Atlantic Sturgeon, Coyote and even a Mallard Duck. To also incorporate a carousel’s traditional sense of whimsy there are also two fanciful Unicorn figures adorned with butterflies. An Oyster Chariot ornamented with a pearl is also found on this distinctive carousel.
Here are some of the figures ..

A deer and next to it,  a crab and eel.

A wild turkey and a cormorant, there's also a Canadian goose at the back.

A seal, a rabbit and a blue bird

Fish, crawfish and skunk

 A beaver and a fox

 Mallard and sea turtle

Atlantic sturgeon, raccoon and another fish

Wolf, sea horses and a black bear

What's nice about the carousel is that the names of the animals are written near the top part, like the peregrine falcon and the coyote on this pic.  Too bad we can't see the toad.

Then there are the fanciful creatures like the unicorn.

And the one feature that occupies its entire section, the oyster chariot, which is also wheelchair accessible.

To get to Pier 62, these are the directions from their website.

By Subway C or E train to 23rd Street/8th Avenue
1 to 23rd Street/7th Avenue
Walk west to the Hudson River, there is a crosswalk at 22nd & 23rd Street and the West Side Highway. Once in the park, walk in the direction of the river, pass the skate park and look for the carousel on the pier.

On my way to the carousel, I passed by the skate park and gardens with some flowers. It was my first time to see these flowers and I don't know their names.  I later learned that the top-left one is a dinner-plate hibiscus. Prior to this the only hibiscus I've seen were average in size but the ones on Pier 62 were huge, the size of a child's face.

After the skate park and the carousel is an open area,  a promenade with benches and views of the Hudson River and New Jersey.

I sat on one of the benches to rest and this was my view. You could see that small bump on the left that is Lady Liberty.

There are also a lot of boats docked at the pier.

Walking back to the carousel, i saw this sign. I'm glad I passed the height limit. :)

Leaving the carousel area, this was my view looking east to the city.

North of Pier 62 is a huge lawn with lots of boulders, a nice place to sunbathe and watch the kayakers on the river.

From this point, I could look back to where the carousel is and I noticed it has a sort of garden on the roof.

The grass look withered, probably from the heat and the elements.  This link gives you a better pic of the roof garden.

The gardens around the area are full of blooming flowers, with lots of tables and chairs for people to sit and relax.

Here's another collage of the flowers I saw blooming around the Chelsea Cove gardens.

On my way out of Pier 62, I passed more flowers that I haven't seen before.  I later learned that the one on the bottom left is called blanket flower.

The above flowers were on another garden with lots of stones.  According to the Hudson River Park site, this area is called Stonefield ..

Large stones were chosen from quarries in New York State and the northeast corner of Pennsylvania. They were selected for their special shapes and unusual sculptural qualities.  Some are very colorful, some are concave, some craggy, one is very tall, another shaped somewhat like a boat.
Each is special. They are arranged to show their unique characteristics and individual ‘being-ness’.

I know I'll be back!

For the rest of my Pier 62 pics, here's the album on Flickr. - Pier 62 Carousel and Gardens