Archive for August 2007

Police arriving in force at Wachovia Bank on 42nd Street and 3rd Ave.

August 23, 2007

Saturday’s wanderings got off to an interesting start.  I was walking to the subway and heard an oh-so-familiar sound:  police sirens.  They’re constant in NYC, but they do let me know when not to cross the street.  I held my position and, whatya know:  they stopped at the Wachovia Bank right in front of me.  Five of them within a period of about 30 seconds.  The picture below just shows two, but the others showed up at the left side of the bank.

Police at Wachovia 1

The police piled out and quickly ran up to the bank.  They were met by someone looking like a bank manager or something.  No guns drawn, but there was a bit of tension in the air.  Some of the cops ran up to windows and started peering in.

Wachovia Bank 2

Once again, no sense of urgency; more like a sense of “we got an alarm, we gotta check it out.”

I saw the “manager” or whatever talking with the one cop.  My immediate thought was “false alarm”.  I checked the news on Sunday to see if there was anything.  There wasn’t.  Nonetheless, it was interesting to watch it as I walked along.

I did find out that the bank opens at 10am on Saturday, while the police arrival was about 9:50am.  Maybe while setting up the teller drawers, someone accidentally tripped the silent alarm.

-H

Harlem Street Party

August 22, 2007

It’s my variation on an old joke:  other than that, Famous Ankles, how was the Harlem street party?

Well, it was pretty nice, excepting the Black Panther Party scum.  The link tells you that they mugged me for a grand total of $2.

Actually, excepting the scum, Harlem was as great as ever.  It’s Harlem Week and the street party was something that I really wanted to see.  All of my previous wanderings of Harlem had been during the morning and afternoon.  I wanted to see Harlem at night, during the time that it might not be quite the same.  Well, except for the scum, it was every bit as vibrant and joyful as I could have hoped.

As I emerged from the subway at St. Nicholas Ave and 135th, I spotted a large stage facing away from me with a sea of people listening, watching, singing, and dancing to a live performance.  I entered the area and just started listening, watching, and taking pictures.  Famous Ankles neither sings nor dances.  But the rest of the crowd made up for it.

Harlem Street Party 1

Harlem Street Party 2

Harlem Street Party 3

The crowd knew the words and it seemed that everyone was accompanying the performers.  I eventually recognized one of the songs, but it wasn’t one of those that I really know, at least like this crowd knew.

I was told that the performers were Ray, Goodman, & Brown.  I don’t know why there are four people up there with three names; but then I had to ask who they were.  Here’s a pretty poor shot of them (I was using the zoom and was a little shakier than the camera could adjust for).

Harlem Street Party - Ray, Goodman & Brown

Anyway, they sang for a while and I eventually just sort of wandered off to see the rest of the street party.  After about a block and a half, I couldn’t hear them anymore as recorded music was being played by a variety of vendors.

Here are some shots from further in the party.  The party covered 135th Street from St. Nicholas Avenue to Lenox Avenue.

Harlem Street Party 4

There were a lot of food and merchandise vendors.  I was actually tempted by one or two vendors, but I tend to avoid street food.

Harlem Street Party 6

As you can see, the crowding was pretty intense.  I can only hint at the boisterousness and excitement that was everywhere.  And, of course, lots and lots of music.  Very enjoyable and memorable.

My favorite part of the entire party was some impromptu dancing that started up.  It was pretty small, and at one point a woman tried joining in and wasn’t quite successful in matching the moves of the others.  But I think we all appreciated her attempt.

Harlem street party dancers

And then I got mugged.  Or, rather, I got extorted out of $2 by the Black Panthers who resented being in part of one of my street pictures.  If you’ve looked at my post, you’ll know it’s a terrible picture.  But I put it in just to highlight the scum that were hanging around a very pleasant time.

Perhaps the worst part (other than the mugging) is that the Panthers had a pretty good following.  They had lots of people listening in to their talk.  I don’t know what they were discussing but it was probably related to their need to prove their identity by raising $2.

Incidentally, something I had forgotten about until writing this: earlier in the day when I was going through Park Slope, I was walking on the street and found, of all things, two one-dollar bills just being blown down the sidewalk. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that my mugging was just a part of a zero-sum chain of events.

The Panthers are, nonetheless, scum IMHO.

-H

Wandering Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza

August 21, 2007

My latest posts have been about my wanderings out and about Brooklyn on Saturday, August 18th.  Here’s another.

What can I say?  It was a busy day.  I still have two or three posts left that cover the weekend.  It may be for the best because this coming weekend’s weather may not be quite as accommodating as last weekend’s.  In any event, I sure hope it doesn’t include another mugging.

Anyway….this post isn’t about next weekend, but about my Park Slope (Brooklyn) wanderings.  Where we left off, I had managed to aimlessly wander around the ENTIRE PARK!!!!  What was I thinking?  I’ll tell you what I was thinking:  “I need to get to Grand Army Plaza and get something to eat.”  Ahhh, sophisticated thought processes on display there, eh?  (Truth:  it’s a big park, but it is walkable.)  When I finally did spot Grand Army Plaza, it was a moment of pleasant relief.

Grand Army Plaza is a huge area built up and around a plaza and it is grand, indeed.  The centerpiece of the plaza is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch.  (But to confuse you, there’s a Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan, too.  It’s where the Plaza Hotel is, right at the southeast corner of Central Park.  Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza is at the northern tip of Prospect Park.  Both parks, as noted in my earlier post, were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.  Maybe he had a thing about grand armies…)

Here’s a pic of the arch.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch

It is part of Park Slope, but it seems more or less a place all to itself.

I’ve been there before and each time, there’s been a Famers Market.  You can see part of it at the bottom of the picture of the arch.  NYC is big on farmers markets.

I was pretty tuckered out when I got to this point.  I did notice the Brooklyn Public Library just to the side and just had to go in.

Grand Army Plaza

It’s pretty nice inside, but not quite the New York Public Library, which has an entry beyond compare.  I still owe you a photo regarding my Brooke Astor post.  Soon…

Oh, there doesn’t really seem to be any places there that I wanted to eat; so I went a few blocks back to 7th Avenue and found the Tex-Mex place I mentioned in the Park Slope post.  It wasn’t worth walking the few extra blocks.  Well, I’ve gone further for worse, so no real complaint.

-H

Wandering Prospect Park

August 20, 2007

As part of my planned Saturday wanderings in Brooklyn, I decided to take a quick look into Prospect Park.  It turns out to be far more of a look than planned.  I essentially walked the entire perimeter of the park.  It’s a big park and I got pretty tired during the walk.

I reached the park after going through Park Slope, which is just to the immediate west of Prospect Park.  I think I was on 9th Street and I did enter at the Lafayette entrance.  I don’t know if that’s the actual name, but there’s a dedication to him at the entrance.

Prospect Park entrance

The area just inside the entrance was set up for a big birthday party for a little kid.  Happy Birthday kid…whoever you are.

Frederick Law Olmstead was the primary architect of both Central Park and Prospect Park.  They are very different, but they both share one feature that even Famous Ankles can notice:  complexity and diversity of the areas.  Neither park can be described simply.  You can’t take in the parks at a glance or even with a dozen different perspectives.  They are designed to have distinct areas, each with its own identity and, usually, a distinctive name.  In Central Park, you’ve got such places as the Great Lawn, the Sheep Meadow, the Ramble, and Poets’ Walk.  Prospect Park has lots of names, but they don’t strike my ear as familiar as those in Central Park (whose places I had heard of before moving to NYC).  That doesn’t make them any less attractive.

The most immediate difference I saw between Central Park and Prospect Park is the lack of fences in Prospect Park.  Central Park has a lot of fenced-off areas; or at least areas that are fenced off at various times during the year.  I wandered for a while in Prospect Park before I saw my first fenced-in area.  It’s an equestrian area where two women were taking horse riding lessons.  There were also two instructors, one of whom seemed to enjoy yelling at one of the riders.  It wasn’t English…but in NYC it can be anything.

Riding area

I continued walking and ran into Prospect Park Lake at the far south tip of the park.

Prospect Park Lake 1

It looks like Goose Heaven to me.

Prospect Park Lake 2

And that leads to a second difference between Prospect Park and Central Park:  wilderness areas.  As beautiful as Central Park is, there’s very little unplanned space in it.  At times, it seems that every blade of grass is planned.  Central Park has an area called “The Ramble” (an old favorite of mine) which is relatively “wild”.  But even it is very well planned out.  In contrast, Prospect Park has lots and lots of “wild” areas.  (I saw an interview where a Park employee said they had the last true forest in NYC.)

Wild areas 1

Wild areas 2

Okay, the last seems pretty planned, but it wouldn’t look that way in Central Park.

The biggest difference, at least for me, is really the people.  On a weekend like this one, Central Park is usually much more crowded.  There are a lot of runners/bikers in the streets in both places, but I don’t think Prospect Park had more than a relatively small fraction of that population in Central Park.  I did note that the hilliness of Prospect Park made some of the bikers and rollerbladers go a lot faster than anyone I’ve seen in Central Park.

But, both parks were done by Olmstead and there are lots of similarities.  I’ve mentioned the “sections” that both parks consist of.  They both also have a number of tunnels in the walking areas.

Prospect Park underpass

They both have “boathouses”.  In Prospect Park, it’s near the Audubon Center.  Central Park’s boats are individualized (you rent them and paddle yourself).  What I saw in Prospect Park included a sort of micro-cruise ship.  Here’s that boat coming under an overpass (unique to Prospect Park, too).

Audubon Center area

It’s tiny, but it is powered by something other than oars.

Okay, but there’s one thing that Prospect Park has that Central Park doesn’t:  the Long Meadow.  Stretching from Prospect Park Lake in the south to the northern tip, the Long Meadow is a grassy open area several hundred yards wide and who knows how long.  It meanders all over the place and is a combination Sheep Meadow and Great Lawn and beyond.  In Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, people often just cluster to sunbathe.  In the Great Lawn, they play organized sports (reserved times and everything).  In Prospect Park’s Long Meadow, they do both and anything else they feel like.  It’s nearly perfect.  I can hardly say enough in its favor.

Long Meadow 1

Long Meadow 2

Long Meadow 3

The last picture is from near the northern tip of Prospect Park.  At that point, you enter back into Park Slope.  That area is Grand Army Plaza (the subject of another post).

-H

Leona Helmsley has died

August 20, 2007

Another NYC legendary figure has passed away.  This time, Leona Helmsley, whose passing is unlikely to evoke the warmth that Brooke Astor’s did.  Although I presume the struggle over her final will is going to be less contested than Mrs. Astor’s.

I recently visited some family that was staying at the Park Lane Hotel on 59th Street.  My aunt and uncle were in on a business/pleasure trip and stayed at the hotel on something like the 42nd floor.  I went up to meet them and got one of the greatest NYC views ever:  straight up the center of Central Park.  A view of a lifetime.  It did give me the chance to point out various and sundry famous buildings in the distance and Central Park attractions just below.  Leona was apparently living just two to four floors above and shared the view, albeit slightly better.  There was a car in the hotel’s driveway that was ready to whisk her away at a moment’s notice, but we had heard that it had been a long time since that call had been made.

I live in Tudor City, which was once owned by Harry Helmsley (Leona’s husband).  He was the person who, after years of acrimony with Tudor City renters, arranged for the sale to the group that eventually turned the complex into co-operative apartments.

Tudor City

There’s still a Helmsley Hotel just about two blocks away on 42nd Street.

-H