Archive for the ‘Greenwich Village’ category

Street Sights in Greenwich Village

August 18, 2008

I always think of Greenwich Village as this picturesque place that’s very quiet and expensive. I generally call it “Ozzie and Harriet-land” because it is so gentrified and mainstream (well, mostly) and has lost the fabled counterculture/beatnick/starving artist sort of feel.

And this post pretty much falls right into that category. Look at the terrific sights and architecture and try to think of it as flophouses.

Not a flophouse, this next place (on 10th Street) just had a porch that I thought was great.

I guess if you’re in a place like Greenwich Village, even Ralph Lauren has to find a spot for a (fake) horse. I couldn’t resist the picture.

The next picture is Bethune Street. It’s just a little street with great architecture and a lotta trees.

The is next picture is one of those views that I like to think of as “pure NYC”. There are only small rowhouses, but this is the sort of sight you see all over Greenwich Village and so many other parts of New York. But I also think of the concrete canyons as “pure NYC” views, too. And Central Park. And a row of little stores about 10 feet wide each. Face it, NYC is too big and too…everything…to be easily classified. Yet each is a pure look at the place. Yeah, I know, I know. I’ll stop with the lyricism.

Another great street, but with a name that has put it on a zillion posters: Gay Street. It is spectacularly nice and really small. It is only a hundred yards or so long, but the curve in it is pretty cool and the buildings on it are very nice.

A final picture of that day’s wanderings (at least for this post). A sidewalk view of a number of row houses somewhere in the Village. I can’t remember the location, but I’d like to point out one thing in all of these pictures: no people. They were taken around 9am on a Saturday morning. That’s not too early; but the streets were pretty empty. I hadn’t realized that none of the pictures had anyone in them until I was writing the post, but it does help point out that NYC isn’t always hustle-bustle.

Okay, in the last picture that might be a person way, way down there, but remember that I didn’t take or select these pictures to exclude people; the streets were just pretty empty.

-H

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St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village

August 16, 2008

Smack in the middle of Greenwich Village is St. Vincent’s Hospital. The only way I know of the place is from endless reruns of Law & Order and, of course, from my infrequent wanderings of NYC that have taken me past it a number of times. As hospitals go, I’m sure it’s terrific and all; but I’ve never had anyone mention it to me in conversation. Like I said, just in Law & Order.

It’s on 7th Avenue around 12th Street, but there are offshoots of it all over the place. In honesty, it looks pretty ordinary. So ordinary, that I’ve never bothered to post on it. Just another building…

But that’s before I found a historical marker (I know, I know; the grammar I learned so long ago says “an historical” is more proper, but I think the use of “a” is now the standard). I’m a sucker for historical markers as any reader knows. I just luv ’em.

It surprised me. The marker says that Edna St. Vincent Millay (a famous American poet from the early 20th Century) was actually named for the hospital. I always thought (or would have thought had I considered the idea at any length) that “St. Vincent” in her name was a maiden name. Instead it was her middle name(s?). The plaque states that the name came because Edna’s uncle was saved by the hospital.

You know, I don’t ever recall reading any of her poetry.  So, I did a little looking.  If you wish, here they are.  I can’t say it is can’t-miss-reading…but then my taste in poetry has never extended much beyond the high school reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge (wow, I had forgotten how long it was!) and some Shakespearean sonnets.

-H

Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village

August 14, 2008

At the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street in Greenwich Village sits a very beautiful building. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a church.

When I first did a little bit of exploring, I found that it was actually a former courthouse and library and who-knows-what-else. It has quite a few plaques on it describing what it was and the like, but I don’t know if it is functional in any capacity nowadays.

As you can see from the above, it does have the “New York Public Library” carved into some of its stones and there’s a plaque below it that details its use as such. But its when you go to the front that you find the best plaques. I only present one of them below. It details the history of the Jefferson Market Courthouse and says it was “designed along Victorian Gothic lines by Vaux & Withers. Was constructed in 1876 and served as the women’s court until 1932.” There’s a little more to it, but it is pretty standard stuff.

Another plaque actually details the names of the bell ringers. The plaque is from 1996 and details the names and hourly times of the people who ring the bell. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it ring, so I don’t know if it is still functioning.

One thing I’ll say about it, other than what a grand building it is: I don’t ever recall not seeing it surrounded by scaffolding! Ever. It just seems to be in perpetual repair or perhaps I don’t wander by often enough.

-H

Abingdon Square Park in Greenwich Village

August 13, 2008

Somewhere in Greenwich Village…okay, at the corner of 12th Street and 8th Avenue…is Abingdon Square Park. It’s pretty nondescript, but is graced with a Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I’ve been by there a few times and the place is pretty traditional for NYC parks. It’s nice, well attended, and lots of seating.

Another thing it has is a statue to local soldiers who fought and died in World War I. It’s not particularly disconcerting, but I always smile about war statues when I’m in Greenwich Village, one of the last enclaves of the counterculture. Or it would be if it hadn’t been thoroughly involved in the real estate runup of the past couple of decades. Expensive homes in the area, don’t-ya-know?

Like I said, well-maintained and rather lush with plantlife. Notice the flagpole in the next picture. It has a sign saying it was dedicated in 1933 by the Michael J. Lynch V.F.W. in memory of “our departed comrades.” It’s a nice and useful item in the park.

The farmers’ market is not in the square itself. Instead, it surrounds the park by being on the encompassing sidewalk. As such, it isn’t a particularly large market, but it seemed rather popular with the locals that day.

-H

A Small Spalding Gray Memorial

June 19, 2008

I’ve been to the area about five to seven times; Tompkins Square Park. One of my favorite spots is the Temperance Fountain. That fountain was established a hundred years ago to provide fresh water and (hopefully) wean people away from alcohol.

I had never noticed that the pavers around the fountain had dedications. Not all of them, but a bunch. As I circled it and looked (‘cuz I’m that kind of guy), I spotted a familiar name: Spalding Gray.

I never knew him or met him.  I best remember him in the movie “Swimming to Cambodia”.  He was something of a mezmerizing storyteller.

The paver reads “To The Best Dad in The World Spalding Gray All our love Marissa, Forrest Theo”.  According to Wikipedia, Marisa was his stepdaughter and the other two were his sons.  (And Wikipedia spells Marissa with one “s” whereas the paver has two.  I don’t know the right one.) [UPDATE:  Spalding Gray webmaster John Boland has provided the correct spelling:  “Marrisa”.  So the paver ought to read “To The Best Dad in The World Spalding Gray All our love Marrisa, Forrest Theo”.  This would correct the spelling of Marissa/Marrisa.]

But I do know that I enjoyed his monologue in Swimming to Cambodia.  Absolutely riviting.  I saw parts of “Monster in the Box” and enjoyed that, too.

-H 

Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden

June 2, 2008

I went down to the Lower East Side to watch the Turkish Day Parade. It never happened. No parade. No sign of a parade. I have to figure out how to find a reliable source for parade information.

While I was there, looking in vain, I noticed a little garden that I hadn’t seen before. It was the Sixth Street and Ave B Community Garden. Located…right there. The LES has a whole bunch of these little garden areas.

This one was interesting in that it was absolutely busting out with plant life. There was an entire crew in there that day, but I didn’t see any pruning; just heard some stuff about composting which I presumed was neighborhood composting.

Look at this place. Looks like it needs a crew with weedwhackers. It’s Spring and the place is roaring back to life after a hard Winter. A little pruning might be a very good thing.

Actually, at least one area looked like it was getting ready for some specialized planting.

It was this garden that really showed me how vibrant these gardens can be. I went through a number of them during my winter wanderings and am looking forward to seeing how they are faring. Are they tightly managed and kept in check? Or are is each just an oasis of wildness?

-H

The Creative Little Garden in the LES

May 31, 2008

It’s so small that it’s easy to walk right by “The Creative Little Garden“. Yet, it is so nearly perfect that it may be my favorite garden in the City. It’s located at 503 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B. It’s a block away from Tompkins Square Park which makes it a little more unlikely to find as that park is a magnet for the locals.

I was surprised how quickly I took to it. Most of these community gardens are interesting only for a couple of minutes. But this one had me sitting and resting and reading in it for quite some time.

I don’t know how thin it is, but this picture was taken while sitting on the bench in the picture above.

From what I understand, there’s a long story behind the garden. The woman who founded it is said to have been a member of the French Resistance during WWII and something of a far-left radical once she got here. The other part is that there’s some connection between the garden and the Godfather movie. I read that the neighborhood was used for some of the exterior shots for that movie and some of the funds were used to create the garden.

Or it could all be a bunch of hoo-hah.

But it is a great little garden.

-H