Candy Flags at the Port Authority Bus Terminal

Anyone whose ever been to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan knows that it is not our finest example of urban architecture, but it actually contains some great public art. I’ll leave the discussion of the permanent art installations for another day, but today I want to focus my attention on a temporary pop art installation of “Candy Flags” by artist Laurence Jenkell. Titled Crossroads of the World, the exhibition consists of large fiberglass sculptures in the shape of individual wrapped pieces of candy, each one decorated with a different country’s flag. The art is fun and whimsical, adding color to an otherwise drab space. (Although I couldn’t avoid random caution signs and cleaning supplies nearby the art occasionally!)

Here are just a few of the candy flags I found while exploring the Bus Terminal:

United States
Australia
South Africa
Germany
India
Turkey
Mexico
Great Britain

There is also a gallery space which is opened limited hours. Although it was closed the day I visited, I could still see into the space and spotted these intriguing works of art.

Want to see this installation yourself? It is located in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, near Times Square in Manhattan. It is easily reached by subway from either the Times Square/42nd Street/Port Authority subway stations. I believe the installation will be at the Bus Terminal until December 2018.

David Bowie Is Here: A Subway Station Installation

I often write about the public art in NYC subway stations, but the recent David Bowie installation in the Broadway – Lafayette subway station in Manhattan was a real treat. The installation, titled David Bowie Is Here, celebrated Bowie’s life and music in New York City. It was meant to draw attention to a David Bowie exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Unfortunately, the subway station installation just ended, but the museum exhibition continues until July 15.

Everywhere you looked in the station there was something to see – photographs representing Bowie’s albums and career, quotes about his views of living in New York City, even song lyrics on the station steps! There was also a map showing locations where Bowie lived and worked in the neighborhood surrounding the station. For anyone who loved David Bowie’s music, the installation was a real treat!

Here are some of the images I captured of the installation, but there were many more.

At some point, I’ll go to the points on the map and write a post about what I find. I’m also hoping to make it to the Brooklyn Museum exhibition before it closes!

A Monument to Raoul Wallenberg on First Avenue

Sometimes I just choose a neighborhood or street in New York City to walk for a few hours, looking for things I haven’t noticed before. Even when I’ve been to that neighborhood many times before, I still find something new every time. That’s the beauty of the city – it’s impossible to ever see everything, do everything. Not long ago I decided to take a walk north on First Avenue in Manhattan, starting on the Lower East Side and ending by the Queensboro Bridge. I walked 60 city blocks in all, a distance of three miles. And, as always, I discovered new things. The most interesting to me was this monument, located on a traffic island in the middle of First Avenue at East 47th Street.

As I approached, I wondered what it might be. Thankfully, the five stone pillars gave a good basic explanation. This site, technically part of the NYC Parks system, is a monument to Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Like me, you might wonder what a monument to a Swedish diplomat is doing in New York City. I had never heard of Raoul Wallenberg before, but the description on the monument, along with more information about Wallenberg on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website, educated me about Wallenberg’s importance.

I learned that Wallenberg, who was born in Sweden in 1912, attended university in the United States in the 1930s. After he returned to Sweden, the U.S. War Refugee Board recruited him to go to Budapest, Hungary, in an effort to save as many Hungarian Jews as possible. Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July 1944, and between that time and January 1945, when Soviet troops entered the city, he and his colleagues were credited with saving approximately 100,000 Jews. He did so by issuing certificates of protection from the Swedish government.

While Wallenberg’s actions helped to save many lives, his personal story had a more tragic ending. The monument explains that he was detained by Soviet forces in January 1945, and no one knows what ultimately happened to him.

By looking closer at the ground surrounding the pillars, I learned more about the the monument’s materials. The five columns are made of black diabase, a type of stone quarried in Wallenberg’s native Sweden. Even more symbolic are the paving stones at the columns’ base; a gift from the city of Budapest, the stones come from the streets of the city’s former Jewish ghetto. I found the replica of Wallenberg’s briefcase, cast in bronze in Sweden, particularly poignant. Further research gave me the names of the monument’s designers: Swedish artists Gustav and Ulla Kraitz.

In 1981, the U.S. Congress voted to make Raoul Wallenberg an honorary U.S. citizen. Wallenberg’s monument is located near the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, and there are also other things named after him in the city, including a public school (P.S. 194) in Brooklyn, the Raoul Wallenberg Forest in the Bronx, an the Raoul Wallenberg Playground in Highbridge Park in the northern part of Manhattan.

A Jane’s Walk in Douglaston, Queens

It’s May in New York City, which means that the Municipal Art Society has once again offered more than 200 neighborhood walks throughout the city. The walks honor Jane Jacobs, who was a journalist and community activist in New York City for many years. Jane Jacobs believed that urban development should take into account the community, and the annual walks illustrate that community-based theme. Last year I explored East Harlem during two unique Jane’s Walks. (You can read about those walks here and here.) This year I decided to use a Jane’s Walk to explore a neighborhood I had never been to before – Douglaston, in the borough of Queens.

The Jane’s Walk in Douglaston focused on the historic district, which is known as Douglas Manor. Douglas Manor was a planned community constructed in the early 20th century, not long after Queens became a part of New York City. What makes Douglas Manor special is its large collection of historic Arts and Craft style homes. In fact, those homes have resulted in Douglas Manor being named a New York City landmark. The walk was sponsored by the Douglaston Local Development Corporation and the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society, and was led by architects Kevin Wolfe, Victor Dadras, and Robert Dadras. Here’s Kevin Wolfe, who has led restoration efforts on a number of the community’s homes, explaining what characterizes the Arts and Craft style.

One of the things we quickly learned is that what makes the Arts and Crafts style special is its focus on handmade, craftsman-created architectural details. That means that Arts and Crafts homes can vary significantly in appearance and materials, often incorporating elements of other architectural styles as well. The diversity of Arts and Crafts design quickly became apparent on our walk, and early May is the perfect time to explore this neighborhood, with its many flowering trees. Here are just a few examples of the homes we discovered.

One of my favorite homes was this one, which was built by Norweigian painter and sculptor Trygve Hammer. I loved its unique character, and the fact that its handcrafted details made it fit the Arts and Crafts theme.

Interested in learning more about Douglas Manor? You can read the New York City Landmark report here, on the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society’s Website. To visit Douglas Manor in person, take the Long Island Railroad’s Port Washington line to Douglaston. The historic area is located a short walk north of the train station.

This seems like a good one for 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!

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.