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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label Historic. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label Historic. Show all posts

      Sunday, June 2, 2013


      Take the tram at 59th & 2nd. Ave for an astounding ride over the East River to Roosevelt Island, then a 25 cent bus ride or a 3/4 mile walk to the new park at the southern tip of the Island. The 59th St. bridge parallels the tramway.
       Designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn in 1973 to honor FDR and never built, it was finally constructed starting in 2010 and opened as a NY State Historical park last fall. At the time of planning Nelson Rockefeller was Governor, John Lindsey was Mayor, this plot of land was called Welfare Island, and NYC was heading for bankruptcy.
      As you approach the park, you pass the ruin of a small pox hospital which may be preserved as a visitor center.
      A park ranger explained that Kahn not only designed the space but chose the trees, copper beeches against the facade of the hospital, and two allees of lindens flanking a simple lawn.
       As you enter the park, the vista is toward the narrow island tip, the apex of a triangle, pointing to a grand bust of F.D.R. and thence to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, which Roosevelt helped to save during WWII.
       To the right is the general assembly of the UN that the President helped to form. On the back of the monument is inscribed part of the Four Freedoms speech from 1939.
       The park is simple and direct, wholly satisfying. What Kahn obviously knew and I didn't realize is that because of the vanishing perspective, when you turn around to walk back to the entrance, the lawn seems no longer triangular but rectangular, an optical illusion. I didn't even see it until I came home and looked at my images.
      Though I'm no longer a fan of perfect lawns, this park was designed 40 years ago when such lawns were the ideal, so I'm more forgiving.
      On Memorial Day 2013, Vietnam Vet Ben Platt joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney right, and Singer/Composer Carole King in laying a wreath at the monument. Amazingly, the wreath was formed of all fresh, undyed flowers and foliage, so I didn't have to run up and start discarding offending materials.
      The park is free and open to the public  from 9am to 7pm 6 days a week, closed Tues. Learn more.

      Saturday, July 10, 2010


      So it wasn't an ocean voyage; it was one free ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan across New York Harbor to Governors Island. Embarking from the historic Battery Maritime Building (above), we sailed under the helicopters, next to the mammoth Staten Island Ferry and within sight of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. (Free ferries also from Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and by Water Taxi for a fee.) A federal military installation since the Revolutionary War, in 2001 half of Governors Island was designated a National Historic Site and in 2003 the other half turned over to NYC for parkland, recreation, and the arts.

      Below, newly restored Commanding Officers Quarters built in 1843, open to the public, now used for exhibits and events. My ostensible reason for going was to visit the organic farm established by Added Value, a Brooklyn non-profit supporting urban agriculture, but we first stopped to admire the view of steamy lower Manhattan from the shade of the Island.At Picnic Point, a lone farmer works 40 hours a week to tend both flower and vegetable crops in raised beds with drip irrigation. Island-made compost for the farm is supplied by the Earth Matter Compost Learning Center directly across the road. The farmer hopes to have produce available for sale at a farm stand later in the summer, but some plants like the squash and celery here were still waiting to go in on July 2. Behind the crops, overlooking the harbor are half units of shipping containers, each open on two sides, housing a picnic table and benches for family groups. When you double click to enlarge the image below, note that some clever designer has added large wheels to one end of each bench, to enable visitors to move and park them in the best positions.Ride a rental bike (one hour free on Fridays), play free miniature golf with each hole designed by a different artist, hear a free concert on some summer weekends, walk around the island and capture your favorite view of a favorite lady (also free), take a free tram ride for a guided tour with unlimited on-off privileges, fly a kite, enter one of the historic buildings and see the work of artists in residence, learn about the military history and visit a fort, walk out on a pier into the East River, and if you get too exhausted from all of this playing, refresh yourself with some of the best homemade cart food you'll find in the city. Carts are scattered all over the 110 acres of public open space. Here's what Fauzia had to offer the day we were there.
      You may not find any mango-pineapple lemonade left because Gary H. drank three. I saw him.

      Learn more.

      Sunday, June 13, 2010


      I first saw this building from The High Line, the elevated garden in the Meat-Packing district of Manhattan, and felt an immediate attraction. Turns out it houses the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, on land donated by Clement C. Moore in1819. The acreage was part of the apple orchard on his estate. The oldest building dates from 1836, with other brick and stone structures also from the 19th century. Within the E-shaped Seminary is a park-like setting called the Close, a very secret garden.The buildings encompass a full city block, from 20th to 21st St and from 10th to 9th Aves. and you can peer though the wrought iron fencing to see just a bit. The only entrance to the garden for visitors is on 21st. st near 10th. Though the brochure says visitors are welcome, you must buzz at the gate, and gain admission by leaving some ID with the receptionist, (no charge for admission or brochure). Behind those sturdy brick walls are a library and chapel whichare also worth a visit. GardenBytes suggests you go sit under the old London Plane trees, read, breathe deeply and contemplate life. It's a totally serene spot.
      The Seminary was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. As for flowers an herbs, there are some but they won't be the highlight of your visit.

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