The Church of the Holy Family: Serving the UN Community

I’ve passed the Church of the Holy Family, located on 47th Street in Manhattan between First and Second Avenues before, but until recently I had never taken the time to check it out more closely. Last weekend, however, I was exploring the neighborhood, and the church caught my attention. The rather stark lines of the church, reflecting the design sense of the era in which it was constructed (the mid-century modern style popular in the 1960s), stood out in contrast to the glass buildings and bright blue sky above them.

As I researched the church, I discovered that it was designed by a New York architect named George J. Sole, who focused primarily on religious architectural design in his work. The church was dedicated in 1965, and it has served the United Nations community ever since. (UN headquarters are located nearby, on the other side of First Avenue.)

The interior of the church is modern, continuing the clean lines of the exterior but in warmer tones.  The church’s website provides this description of the main altar and figure of Jesus:

The art and design of the church reflect a spirit of ecumenism and multi-nationalism. As you enter, you are greeted by the loving, open arms of the Risen Christ above the altar. Like the figures on the two side altars, and the statue of the Virgin in St. Mary’s Garden, the sculpture is a product of the studio of Nagni and was cast in Pietrasanta, Italy. The altar is fashioned of Canadian black granite quarried near the Arctic Circle.

I found this altar in one corner of the sanctuary, which I learned from the church website is the altar of reservation. Like other parts of the church, this altar reflects the church’s inclusive theme, as above the Tabernacle is a large Byzantine icon of Our Lady of Peace.

Everywhere I look I see more religious art, once again with diverse meanings. The beautiful stained glass windows, with their pleated structure, portray “the various national and racial groups who were refugees as a result of World War II, and repeat the word “hope” in all the refugees’ languages, as well as in Latin.” Artist Jordi Bonet designed the windows and other ceramic art throughout the space. (The large ceramic sculptures portray the Holy Family as refugees as well, fleeing to Egypt after Jesus’s birth.)

Emerging back into the sunlight, I noticed this small garden next to the church, labeled “St. Mary’s Garden.” It’s a quiet respite from the busy city, with its lovely statue of Mary.

A Return to the First Street Garden

More than a year ago I wrote about my discovery of the First Street Garden, a community garden supported by the Lower East Side Girls Club. (You can find that earlier post here.) What first drew my attention to the garden were the murals painted on the walls, but I only had a limited glimpse through the padlocked fence. I returned multiple times, hoping to arrive when the garden was open, and my persistence finally paid off! This time I got much better views of the murals, which commemorate women who have had an important influence on New York and United States history.

Here are some of the murals I discovered. First, there is this one of journalist and activist Dorothy Day, by an artist named Nicolina.

Next, there is this colorful portrait of Shirley Chisholm, by artist Lenora Jayne. A New Yorker, Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968.

Peering from behind the ivy was this mural of Rosie Mendez, a former NYC councilwoman who served from 2006 to 2017. The artist’s signature says “Carolina.” Mendez was a leader of the LGBT Caucus within the City Council, and is also known for sponsoring the law that ultimately banned the use of wild animals in circuses in the city.

A ladder and more ivy partially obscured this portrait of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, most known for her covered of the terrible lynchings that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an artist’s signature on this one.

Here’s one of urban activist Jane Jacobs, usually credited with helping to save Greenwich Village from urban development in the 1960s. (Once again, there was no artist’s signature.)

There are murals of two major leaders in the suffragist and women’s rights movements, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. There was no signature on the Paul portrait, but the Anthony portrait was painted by street artist Lexibella, with the help of Gianesina and Lizabeth.

This unsigned portrait of civil rights activist Rosa Parks may be a little faded, but I still loved it.

There are more portraits as well, but I will leave you to discover them when you visit. As I end this post, I wanted to share this important message that’s been added to the garden since my first visit.

The First Street Garden is located on First Street between First and Second Avenues. The closest subway station is the Second Street station, which is accessible from the F train. (Additionally, an access point for the First Street Green Cultural Park is located just down the street from the First Street Garden. You’ll always find original, fresh street art there.) According to the sign on the garden’s gate, the it is open on Friday afternoons, 4:00-6:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4:00 pm.

March for Our Lives NYC

This past weekend people around the world marched in solidarity with Americans seeking stronger gun control regulations in the United States after numerous mass tragedies in recent years. I was privileged to participate in and document the March for Our Lives here in New York City, and I was struck by a variety of thoughts during the march. First, I was struck with how little progress has been made in reforming gun laws in the almost 20 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. I reflected on the many people who have been killed, as well as those whose lives have been forever changed, as a result of gun violence. But, importantly, this march also gave me a new sense of hope. The march was led by young people of all different backgrounds and experiences, and I could see the future in their eyes. As they grow old enough, they are registering to vote, and I believe that their efforts will eventually lead to long-term change.

Here are several photos to give you a sense of the spirit of Saturday’s march. I’ve focused mostly on the high school students at the march, although I’ve also included photos of those parents, teachers, and other adults marching with them.

I look forward to seeing what these teenagers do in the future!

The Magic of New York City: Central Park in the Snow

New York City is a crowded city, with almost 9 million residents and countless tourists. A noisy city, with the roar of jet engines overhead (especially if you live in Queens, home to both LaGuardia and JFK airports), the revving motors and honking horns in constant traffic jams, the clanking and disembodied announcements of the subway trains. A smelly city, particularly on trash collection day – especially in the hot summer months. A gritty city, not always clean despite constant efforts, trash blowing if there’s a strong wind. A busy city, with everyone seeking to get to their destinations, little time to spare to enjoy the unexpected or connect with a stranger on the way.

It’s stimulating, but exhausting as well. That’s why a snow day in the city is so wonderful. The snow blankets the city, softening its harsh edges and creating a new world. And there’s nowhere better to go when the snow is falling than Central Park. The park is magical in the snow, and the cares of the day melt away as I walk for hours along the winding paths.

New York City had this kind of snow last week, resulting in my classes being canceled. We seized the opportunity to explore Central Park in the snow, meandering until we became too cold and wet to continue (and then stopping at a pub for a while to warm up). Here’s a few of my photos from my walk – I hope that you enjoy!

 

It’s been a while since I’ve joined Jo’s Monday Walk – and, as always, I never do it on a Monday. If you haven’t checked out Jo’s blog, Restless Jo, I recommend it!

Tasting Cider at the Brooklyn Cider House

Quite some time ago we had the chance to taste some Brooklyn Cider at the Lower East Side Cider Festival, and I’d heard that the cider makers had recently opened a new cidery and restaurant called the Brooklyn Cider House in Bushwick, Brooklyn. We decided to stop by and check it out last weekend when we were on the hunt for street art in Bushwick, and that turned out to be a great decision.

From a distance, the Brooklyn Cider House looked like a brick industrial building with a metal fence at one end, but there was a large break in the fence with a sign-board welcoming us in. Upon entering the property, we immediately saw the Cider House entrance.

As we stepped inside, we began to feel the magic of the place. Stretching along one wall of the front room, a sunny and welcoming bar, is a mural by Italian street artist Pixel Pancho. The sunlight made getting a full photo of the mural difficult, but in the close-up pictures you can see the details that make Pixel Pancho’s murals so beautiful yet unique.

We arrived not long after they had opened, and the person who greeted us took us on a quick tour of the cidery and restaurant. As we walked past the bar, we entered a space with huge barrels that are used to age the cider. It was a wonderful space, and behind the barrels was even more street art, this time a large mural collaboration by Israeli artists Dede Bandaid and Nitzan Mintz. This one is hard to capture in a single photograph, because of its location behind the barrels, but here are a couple of glimpses.

Behind a pair of large doors was this room where cider is made.

Finally, there was this large room, empty at the time of our visit but used for the the 5-course Basque-style tasting dinners. As part of the dinners, guests have the chance to catch and taste cider straight from the wooden barrels. We decided then and there we will have to come back and have dinner sometime very soon. (Wondering about what they serve at the dinners? Here’s a link to the menu.)

After the tour, we sat down at the bar to order brunch and sample cider. We shared this delicious cowboy steak and eggs for two, perfectly cooked and just the right amount for two people.

Although the bar offers a variety of ciders, beers, and wines, we chose to do a tasting of Brooklyn Cider House’s own ciders. The tasting came with three out of four ciders, but the bartender was kind enough to let us taste the fourth as well. The Kind of Dry, Half Sour, and Bone Dry were all delicious, but our favorite ended up being the Raw, which is described as “a dry, wildly natural cider with beautiful acidity … fresh and mouth puckering with crisp green apple and citrus aromas.” In fact, the ciders were so good we purchased a couple of bottles to take home with us.

Our entire experience at the Brooklyn Cider House was great, and the people we met were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their ciders. It was the perfect start to our hunt for street art around Bushwick that afternoon, and we will definitely be visiting again soon.

Want to visit Brooklyn Cider House yourself? It is located at 1100 Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn, just a short walk from the L train’s Jefferson Street stat.:ion. The restaurant also has a small parking area inside the fence, for those who are driving.

Pieces for Peace: A 2005 CITYarts Mural

On the north side of Manhattan the Jacob H. Schiff Playground, part of the NYC Parks system, is host to a special mural. Titled Pieces for Peace, the mural was created by artist Peter Sis with the help of community volunteers in 2005. I spotted the mural quite some time ago, but there are usually soccer players practicing – or even games – on the weekends when I have the chance to walk by. Finally I had the chance one day to edge my way around the soccer field to see the mural up close, and it was certainly worth my efforts.

Here are a few glimpses of the mural’s details. Time has dulled the mosaic tiles in some places, but the message of diversity still shines through.

If you’d like to see the mural yourself, the Jacob H. Schiff Playground is located on Amsterdam Avenue in northeastern Manhattan, between 136th and 138th Streets.

Photos on the Fence: Holocaust Survivors at the United Nations

Last weekend I had the chance to go see a special installation displayed on the fence outside of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The photos are one half of an exhibition memorializing the victims and survivors of the Holocaust titled Survivors, Victims and Perpetrators, and were taken by Italian photographer Luigi Toscano as part of the Lest We Forget project. (I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the other half of the exhibit, which is located inside the Visitors’ Center.)

The photos are larger than life and intensely powerful. The survivors’ faces engage the viewers; both hope and sorrow are visible in their gazes. Each one is accompanied by a small card that gives each survivor’s name, place and date of birth, date and details of arrest and detention, and information about liberation. Some cards had additional heartbreaking details about what happened to other members of the survivor’s family during the Holocaust. Two even had the caps they had worn in the concentration camps.

Here are some of the photos that stayed with me even after I left the site.

I’m going to stop with these, as I don’t want to ruin the exhibition for those who have the chance to visit it themselves. Hopefully from these you can understand why I found the photographs so gripping.

Want to see this powerful exhibition in person? It’s located at the entrance to the United Nations headquarters on First Avenue, between 46th and 48th Streets. (The M15 bus runs north along First Avenue, if you are traveling by public transportation.) Survivors, Victims and Perpetrators is only on view through the end of February 2018.

Subway Station Art: Grand Army Plaza Station

The art in the subway station at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn is both distinctive and beautiful. The installation, titled Wings for the IRT: The Irresistible Romance of Travel, is by artist and public-interest lawyer Jane Greengold.

Ms. Greengold has provided the following explanation of Wings for the IRT:

This project is based on the sculpture on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza, the dominant structure in the Plaza above the station. On the arch, winged victories lead in a chariot bearing Columbia, symbol of the victory of the North in the Civil War. In a subway station, commuters most want to celebrate the arrival of the train, so here, the victories lead in a train. The original logo for the IRT was a winged train, so I used the old-fashioned train and banner from that logo, thus making the image about both the surrounding neighborhood and the subway system itself. At each entrance to the station there is also an individual winged victory, and a small bronze plaque based on a winged woman from the stone work on the Arch.

Unfortunately, I somehow missed the one tile piece that included the train with the winged victories, but you can see an image of it here. I did find these lovely terra cotta tile wing victories however, as well as smaller bronze works.

If you want to see this beautiful art for yourself, the 4 and 5 trains go to Grand Army Plaza station. Once you’ve had the chance to see the art, head above ground to explore the park above.

Immigration and Art at the Museum of Chinese in America

The plight of undocumented immigrants has been in the news a lot recently, and there’s been much concern about the future of immigration in the United States. This issue particularly hits home for New Yorkers, who have tremendous pride in their city’s identity as a refuge for immigrants. Today, New York City’s population is approximately 8.5 million, and more than 35% of that is foreign-born. That diversity adds to the city’s rich cultural fabric, and gives us much to celebrate. It’s also a difficult time, as we see the worry of our immigrant neighbors in tough political times.

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), located in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, has taken a subtle but powerful approach to the issues specifically faced by undocumented immigrants during these trying times. In October, MOCA opened a new exhibition titled FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures. The art in FOLD was created by undocumented Chinese immigrants who were arrested when the ship they were on, the Golden Venture, ran aground near the Rockaways region of the borough of Queens in 1993. Many of the ship’s 286 immigrants were detained in the York County Prison for multiple years. During their time in the prison, the detainees began making sculptures out of paper and other simple materials they had access to. The sculptures were first given as gifts to the lawyers and others who supported the Chinese immigrants as they sought freedom in the United States, and many more sculptures were made and sold to fund their legal efforts. FOLD contains 40 beautiful and unique sculptures that are now part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The sculptures are beautiful. Some are deceptively simple, while others are impressively detailed despite their humble materials. The artists used a variety of techniques to manipulate the paper – rolling, meticulously folding, paper mâché. There are American themes, especially bald eagles and the Statue of Liberty, as well as those with roots in the artists’ own Chinese culture. There are also caged birds, speaking to the situation the artists found themselves in.

Here are some of my favorite sculptures from the exhibition.

If you have the chance to visit the exhibition in person, I urge you to watch the short video on the Golden Venture as well. It was well worth the time. The exhibition is only open through March 25, 2018, so you still have time to see it. Instructions for getting to the museum, as well as other details important for planning a visit can be found on the museum’s website, located here.

Looking Back at the Holiday Season: The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

December is always a magical time in New York City, with the city dressed up in its holiday finery. There are Christmas trees and giant menorahs in many locations, and the department store windows sparkle with competing themes. It’s always my favorite time of the year, but this year was particularly busy. I didn’t get anything written about my December adventures at the time, but I thought I’d let you in on some of what kept me busy then. And there’s an added bonus – I get to hang on to the holiday season just a little bit longer in the process!

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is visit the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights during the month of December, as it is known for its holiday spirit. Homeowners in the neighborhood decorate their homes with Christmas lights and other holiday decor, making it a wonderful place to explore between Thanksgiving and New Year’s each year. In fact, Dyker Heights is famous throughout the United States for its Christmas decorations, as it has been featured in television shows about the topic! The only reason we haven’t gone in prior years is that Dyker Heights is a little complicated to get to if one doesn’t have a car. The subways don’t go to the neighborhood, so it requires a combination of subway and bus if you are traveling by public transportation. This year, we were fortunate to go with a friend who has a car, and so there were no transportation challenges. Having explored the Dyker Heights Christmas lights once, I think it will now be part of our annual traditions.

So let me give you a glimpse of the lights. As you can see, they vary significantly in style, from the elegant to child-like Christmas glee. After walking the neighborhood, visitors were guaranteed to be in the holiday spirit!

So which do you prefer? The delicate, elegant lighting that casts a magical glow, or the fun, over-the-top exuberance of the blow-up decorations and their accompaniments?