Architecture & Design, Landscape & Urban Design, Travels, Eating & Drinking, New York City

New York Weekend: Parks, Gardens, and Public Space

Brooklyn Bridge Park with a view to Lower Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge Park with a view to Lower Manhattan.

We stayed in Brooklyn while in NYC, and I'm super glad we did. The borough is huge, the neighbourhood we stayed in was Fort Greene on Adelphi St. It was a typical brownstone neighbourhood, so cozy and classic!

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Since the weather was so amazingly sunny and warm, we decided to skip out on indoor things like museums and galleries and go for the complete New York public realm experience. Starting with... donuts at the Brooklyn Flea Market on Saturday morning. 

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My sense of flea markets is that... they are usually yucky and overpriced with very few exceptions. Brooklyn Flea was definitely well within my generalization, but I was happy to try some of the delicious food from the nearby food-carts... I had a slow-cooked beef sandwich and Jed had a veggie dosa. Other than that, there were some froufy vintage wares and a lot of hipsters.

After this somewhat early lunch, we took the train to Manhattan for our main goal of the day: the High Line by DS&R + James Corner Field Operations. I had some vague thought that since it was the end of October, the high line would be empty of people and the golden/red plantings would be purely displayed with people-free surroundings for my photographing pleasure. Not so. Not so by a long shot. The place was absolutely packed. I'm not even sure I would want to come in the summer because of how many people there were. 

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The high line is great in many ways, and a totally wonderful landscape project that shows how nature can be introduced in urban settings on reclaimed infrastructure. It's also clearly functioning as a public space for many, but it must be admitted that the average High-Line visitors seemed to be... mainly white rich people. Just saying.

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After walking the entire length, I nearly convinced Jed and myself that we should pay the $27 and go up the Empire state building. One look at the lineup though, changed our minds and we decided to walk to the Rockefeller centre instead. After establishing that we wouldn't be able to get up that tower either, we decided to go to the Guggenheim Museum. Not before arguing the price of a pretzel down to $2 from 3 from a street vendor who may very well come to break my kneecaps one day.

Looking south in Manhattan.

Looking south in Manhattan.

The Guggenheim was a great experience. (See architecture photos in my other post about NYC) The building itself is such a complete deviation from FLW's other works and it works really well as a gallery space. There were no expressionist masters on display, as they had all been packed up and sent to Toronto (irony) but we did see some great permanent collection items, post war art & small Kandinsky's alongside the exhibition.

We headed home to Brooklyn and picked up a pizza from Graziella's; watched a movie and fell asleep.

***

Day two in New York had a very specific goal in mind: 

SCANDINAVIAN CANDY STORE

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Nothing could satisfy me until we made it to Grenwich Village to load up on licorice, sour skulls, and other Scandinavian treats I've been missing since Herr Nilsson in Berlin. Thank you Swedish candy importers, who recognize how desperately the North American candy market needs you!

After this I was just happy to float along... kidding. We went to Central Park to ride bikes in the autumn light. How much more quintessentially NYC tourist can you get? 

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The park is beyond enormous. And I was surprised to see all the mature, seemingly 'indigenous' landforms. In our 2 hour bike ride, I feel like we saw just a tiny tiny fraction of the park. You could spend years here and still discover something new.

Since we were tourists it meant we were on a finely timed schedule; we still had 2 more important things to see. First was going to Julliard & the Lincoln Centre for Performing arts, where we wanted to see the green roof. A total bonus was seeing the architecture of the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic & the Ballet. 

Relaxing on the green roof of the restaurant next to the Lincoln Centre.

Relaxing on the green roof of the restaurant next to the Lincoln Centre.

Our last trip of the day was back to Brooklyn Heights, where we wanted to walk along the Brooklyn Bridge Park by MVVA, who I am kind of in love with (see also my entry on the new Corktown Commons in Toronto) to see the Statue of Liberty, a view to Manhattan, and further to the DUMBO neighbourhood (DUMBO = Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

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The view to Manhattan was beautiful. The park was beautiful. DUMBO was beautiful. I had a cupcake, a coffee, and bought a book and ate ice cream and it was all beautiful. I feel like an idiot because all of this is probably bleedin' obvious to people who have been to New York, but this was my first time so I get to gush. IT WAS AMAZING!!!

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After this long day of sightseeing, we saved our appetites (sort of... I mean, I did have ice cream and cupcakes at 5pm...) for our culinary experience of the trip: Colonie Restaurant in Brooklyn. 

Here is where I experienced brussels sprouts with bacon and cranberry for the first time, and that left one of the most indelible impressions on my food memory EVER. I think I might have had the Hangar steak, but all I remember are the brussels sprouts. 

Day 3 was our last day, and we only really had the morning and early afternoon before we had to go back to New Jersey for the flight home. We decided we wanted to see the 9/11 memorial at ground zero in Manhattan.

Wall Street.

Wall Street.

In spite of having booked our tickets ahead of time this made seemingly no difference, as people who hadn't booked tickets still got in before us (their line even seemed shorter somehow... 0_o). We joined the line with tourists from Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark & Spain (or at least, those are the accents/conversations I could understand nearby) to go through security, which as you can imagine, is very tight. 

Incidentally, you can't help but notice Daniel Libeskind's most recent shardy creation.

Incidentally, you can't help but notice Daniel Libeskind's most recent shardy creation.

Once we got in, I was initially underwhelmed: I saw some nice trees and paving, but nothing else, really. And then I found out about the waterfalls. And I was like: 

OH.

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There's stuff to see here. And it's really quite ingenious.

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So we spent however many hours walking around, mesmerized by the soft roar of the falling water and the sparkling light that played off the reflective edges. With the yellow-gold trees and the warm light, it made for a very fitting tribute. It will be wonderful when all phases are finished and the memorial can be truly publicly accessible from all sides. 

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We decided to finish our trip with a quick sight-see in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is supposedly where all the hipsters hang out. It sort of reminded me of the boring parts of Berlin, and really didn't strike me as a place I'd care to hang out much. The condo creep of Brooklyn is definitely happening here, the edges are getting uglified. We ate at Egg. It was a satisfying conclusion to a super-great weekend :)

Thus ends the marvellous weekend travel diaries for New York City!