Seeing the Pope in the Park

September 25, 2015

Long before the pope’s plane touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Roman Catholic Church officials began meticulously planning every aspect of his two day trip to New York City. At the same time, law enforcement agencies—ranging from the local to federal levels—started coordinating what Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the “largest security challenge ever.”

Pope Francis arrived late on the afternoon of the 24th and was immediately whisked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he led the evening prayer. The next morning he plunged into a whirlwind of activities around Manhattan, going to the East Side to address the United Nations General Assembly, heading downtown to hold a multi-religious service at 9/11 the Memorial and Museum, driving uptown for a visit with students at Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, traveling in a motorcade through Central Park and then down to a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Admission to all of the events involving the pope was restricted; at no point could someone simply wander over to a school or church to catch a glimpse of the pontiff. Tickets to the religious services were distributed by politicians and priests, while city officials conducted a free lottery for those wishing to view the pope’s procession through Central Park.

On September 10, 40,000 area residents were notified by phone and email that they’d each won a pair of tickets to see the motorcade. The announcements were accompanied by detailed instructions, warnings and restrictions, including a lengthy list of prohibited items:

  • Alcohol
  • Aerosol containers
  • Amplified sound devices
  • Animals other than service and guide animals
  • Balloons
  • Bicycles, scooters and skateboards
  • Blankets
  • Backpacks
  • Chairs
  • Coolers
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
  • Flags
  • Glass, thermal and metal containers
  • Large bags
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace and pepper spray
  • Musical instruments
  • Posters
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs and supports for signs and placards
  • Unlicensed vending
  • Umbrellas 
  • Weapons, explosives and ammunition

Those selected in the giveaway were assigned to color-coded park entrances (red, yellow, green) and told to arrive, bearing their tickets, before 3:00 p.m. to ensure that they’d pass through security in time to see the pontiff drive by at 5:30.

The southern end of the Park was enclosed behind high fences while security gates and tents were erected near Columbus Circle. The streets surrounding Central Park were closed to traffic. Thousands of law enforcement officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes, were deployed throughout the area. Although the gates weren’t scheduled to open until 11:00, anxious ticket holders began arriving at the barricades before dawn and patiently waited for hours until they were able to move forward.

The crowd slowly passed through airport-style security checks conducted by Transportation Security Administration agents including X-rays, inspection of electronic devices and sniffs from dogs trained to detect explosives.  Upon entering the Park, the faithful sprinted towards the metal barriers lining the roadways.

People jockeyed for position, trying to get as close to the front as possible, then settled in for the day. At one point, someone in the crowd cried, “Look up!” All heads turned to see that, directly above the path that the pope would take, a tiny rainbow had appeared above.

As observers remarked on the fact that the day had been clear and almost cloudless (“Imagine, a rainbow without rain!”), the colored strip grew wider, longer and bent into an upside down arc. “It looks like a smile,” some said. Others thought that it was a sacred sign, a blessing, a miracle. After a few minutes, the rainbow faded away.

Finally, a rumble was heard in the distance and a fleet of slowly moving vehicles, all of them flashing lights, appeared. A convoy of motorcycles, armored trucks, NYPD vans, limousines rolled past as excitement in the crowd surged. An open bed truck, its rear filled with photographers and camera operators clamoring for shots, was directly in front of the sight all were awaiting: the famed white Popemobile.

Inside stood the pontiff, smiling and waving his hand to the faithful. The vehicle drove slowly through the Park without pausing. Pope Francis and his guards moved up the roadway and drove out of sight, headed south to Madison Square Garden, where he celebrated Mass and delivered a homily that included references to urban life.

Living in a big city is not always easy. A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly.

These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.

Mural overlooking Penn Station

Sign at Pizza Parlor

Banner on deli

Pope marshmallows

Selling vatican flags

Vendor with football pope t-shirts

Pope Ticket
Ticket to the green zone

Posted instructions for ticket holders

Warning sign on the fence

Reminder about banned items

Notice about Secret Service dogs

First arrivals at the barriers

TSA checkpoint tents

Waiting for security inspection

Standing against the barricades

Officer reminding the crowd to be patient

A tiny spectator

Visitors displaying flags and banners

A tiny strip of rainbow appeared directly overhead

The rainbow grew into an upside-down arc bisected by a strip of cloud

He arrived, waved, and drove on

New York City: Pope Francis Visits New York City
Archdiocese of Washington: Walk With FrancisPope Francis Visit
NBC 4: Officials: Upcoming Papal Visit to NYC ‘Largest Security Challenge Ever’ for NYPD
NY Times: Pope Francis, ‘People’s Pope,’ Is Security Teams’ Headache
NY Times: Pope Francis in America
NY Times: After Lottery in New York to See Pope Francis, Some Winners Scalp Tickets Online
Catholic to the Max: Madison Square Garden Mass
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Madison Square Garden
Our Lady Queen of Angels School

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool and Beach

July 7, 2015

Wedged behind a construction fence, in a weedy corner of Brooklyn Bridge Park between Pier One and Pier Two, is one of the city’s secret delights: a pop-up pool and beach.

If you aren’t familiar with the term “pop-up,” it is used to indicate that something (a shop, restaurant, etc.) is open for an intentionally temporary period. The pop-up pool and beach were built here with the understanding that they would be demolished after five years.

These summer attractions stand beside a luxury hotel and condominium project, known as Pierhouse, which is currently under construction. As Pierhouse nears completion, the land on which the pool and beach now stand will be integrated into the surrounding park. Until that happens, they offer a perfect respite from the heat and humidity of a New York summer.

The primary feature of the tiny resort is a fenced-in blue pool that measures 30 by 50 feet and is only three to three and a half feet deep. This is a wading pool, not a swimming pool, and it is the perfect depth for young children. No electronics, food, glass, or printed materials are allowed beyond the fence (hence, I could not take any photos from inside the pool). There are also changing rooms, communal showers and toilet areas.

On the other side of pool’s fence is a sparklingly clean sandy beach complete with lounge chairs, shady umbrellas, an assortment of sand toys, balls and plastic spades and a snack bar that serves up lemonade, beer, chips and sandwiches. Aside from the food and drink, everything at the pool and beach are free.

The rules here are strictly enforced and those who want to enter the pool area are inspected by lifeguards to ensure that they comply with the clothing and health requirements. If you want to go, the pool is open daily, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, from June 26 until September 7.

Wristbands are required for entry to the pool, and they are distributed hourly on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the pool’s capacity is only 60, it is wise to arrive early before the allotted number of wristbands are taken.

Each wristband entitles the wearer to a 45-minute session in the pool. After each bathing period, the pool is closed and cleaned for the next wave of waders, splashers and sun-worshippers.

The pool is almost impossible to see from the park

The entryway is in the weeds

The beach is small but lively

The view of lower Manhattan is spectacular

Everything is provided for visitors

The pool has rules

A glimpse through the fence

Another view of the pool

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Pop-Up Pool Rules
Lizzmonade Concession Stand at the Pop-Up PoolBrooklyn Bridge Park: Pop-Up Pool
NYC Parks: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool
Brooklyn Bridge Park Project Development
DNA Info: Visitors Pop In to Brooklyn’s New Pop-Up Pool
The Brooklyn Paper: Parks and declarations: Judge gives Pier 1 condos and hotel the all-clear
Curbed: Judge Rules, Again, That Pierhouse Can Rise to Its Full Height
Curbed: Brooklyn Bridge-Blocking Pierhouse Is Allowed to Keep Rising
Curbed: First Look Inside Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pierhouse Condo

Iran do Espírito Santo: Playground

October 3, 2013

Perched on the southern border of Central Park, Playground is a sculpture by Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo. The work, a single piece of cast concrete, is incised to make it appear as though it was constructed of large blocks of stone, precariously stacked atop each other.

The artist describes Playground as a kind of “idealized ruin” and a metaphorical playground. Metaphor or not, the children (and many of the adults) who encounter Playground can’t resist climbing upon, and scrambling inside, the cool, inviting space.







Public Art Fund
Designboom: Concrete Playground by Iran do Espírito Santo

The Lorelei Fountain

July 26, 2010

At the corner of Grand Concourse and 161st street, directly across from the Bronx County Courthouse, stands a seven-acre patch of green known as Joyce Kilmer Park. Originally called  Concourse Plaza, in 1926 the park was renamed for Alfred Joyce Kilmer, an American poet who lived in New York City and was killed in action in France during World War I.

The highest point in the park is the setting of the Lorelei Fountain, which is dedicated to the memory of German poet Heinrich Heine and one of his most famous works, Die Lorelei. The poem tells the story of the Lorelai, a legendary siren with a magical voice who lures sailors to their deaths on the Rhine. At the foot of the white marble fountain is a large plaque which says:

The Heinrich Heine Fountain (also called the Lorelei Fountain) honors the German poet and writer (1797-1856) whose poem “Die Lorelei” immortalized the siren of romantic legend. The marble sculptural group depicts Lorelei seated on a rock in the Rhine River among mermaids, dolphins and seashells. The bas relief around the pedestal include a profile  of Heine as a result of a campaign by many German writers and scholars.

The sculptor Ernst Herter (1846 – 1917) was commissioned with the financial assistance  of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, to design the fountain in 1888 for the writer’s home city of Düsseldorf, which declined the monument on aesthetic as well as political grounds. The fountain was purchased by a committee of German-Americans in 1893 and dedicated in what was then known as Grand Concourse Plaza on July 8, 1899. It was moved to the park’s north end in 1940. In 1999 this monument was restored, relocated to its original location and placed in a newly landscaped setting in Joyce Kilmer Park.

The view from below

Approaching from the left

A closer look

The poet’s face is below the Lorelei

From the right

Rear view

A mermaid reaches for Heine’s laurels

Birds enjoying the fountain

NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Joyce Kilmer Park
Forgotten New York
Dialog International: Heinrich Heine Takes New York

New Amsterdam Village

September 9, 2009

Why is a full sized windmill turning right in the middle of Broadway?

It is part of the celebration of the Dutch arriving in New York 400 years ago, New Amsterdam Village was temporarily constructed, just below Bowling Green Park, at Broadway and Beaver Streets. The village contains booths designed to resemble traditional Dutch canal houses. Some sell traditional foods and products, including cheese, herring, stroopwafels (sweet waffle cookies), flowers and wooden shoes – and yes, even a windmill.

In an open area, intended to represent the village square, a variety of musical acts performed for passersby. The highlights were the raucous numbers from Dynamo, a colorfully costumed youth marching / dancing / percussion / kazoo group, the unexpectedly diverse and humorous repertoire of Kleintje Pils, a brass band clad in traditional striped smocks and wooden shoes and Jan David performing “Miss Sunshine,” the song he composed in honor of NY400.

The windmill dwarfed by skyscrapers

Dynamp reaches skyward

Dynamp drummers

Trying to play the kazoo while giggling

Dynamp member dancing

Dynamp and the bandleader

Dynamp member performing

Dynamp member with triangle

Blue drumsticks and blue kazoo

The traditional method of making wooden shoes

Kleintje Pils
Jan David: Miss Sunshine
NY400 Week: New Amsterdam Village

Egg! Egg! Egg!

August 24, 2009

It was late afternoon and I was walking through Cadman Plaza Park, a small green spot near the steep stairway that leads to the Brooklyn Bridge. As I made my way across the lawn, my attention was drawn to a little girl who was shouting. It sounded as though she was yelling, “Egg! Egg! Egg!”

I walked closer and saw that the girl was pointing to a pigeon waddling in the shadows, between the fallen leaves, and yes, she was calling out about an egg. Just above the surface of the ground, a half-laid egg protruded from the bird’s belly.

I watched, waiting for the wobbly creature to sit down and complete the act of laying her egg. I hoped to see her perched securely above her sticky little white egg. But she took one rocking step after another without pause. Suddenly, there was a flurry of feathers as the pigeon — the egg still stuck between her legs — lifted her wings, flapped across the street, and disappeared into a small grove of trees on Cadman Plaza.

The bird wobbles between the fallen leaves

She’s having trouble walking

The egg is visible between her legs

A closer look at the egg

Arlo Sings in the Castle

July 30, 2009

One of America’s best-loved folk musicians, Brooklyn-born Arlo Guthrie is the son of legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie. Tonight he performed at Castle Clinton in Lower Manhattan, part of the tribute to the 40th anniversary to the Woodstock Festival.

Arlo’s humorous and heartfelt singing delighted the overflow crowd which he regaled with tales and tunes about the 50 or so years he has spent onstage. His stories, which punctuated the evening, touched on everything from his boyhood in Coney Island to appearing onstage at Woodstock to a brief gig acting on a television series called The Byrds of Paradise to his upcoming 40th wedding anniversary.

He played guitar, piano and harmonica and performed his own songs as well as those written by people he has known and loved: Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and of course, his father. The highlight of the evening was the last scheduled number, when the assembled audience joined him in signing what is arguably Woody Guthrie’s best-known song, This Land is Your Land.

Arlo performed alone onstage

He played harmonica, guitar and piano

The songs included old favorites and rarities

The capacity crowd was standing-room-only

After the sun set, the audience sang along

Arlo Guthrie: Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys
River to River Festival: Arlo Guthrie
Rising Son Records
The Official Arlo Guthrie Web site

It’s a Family Affair

July 16, 2009

Tonight in Castle Clinton, all the way down at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra performed a tribute to the music of Sly and the Family Stone. The concert, part of the annual River-to-River Festival, was a dubbed “It’s A Family Affair” — the title of one of the biggest hits by Sly and the Family Stone (it reached #1 on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts).

The musicians who crowded the stage included a lineup of seasoned performers, all of them clearly fans of the the legendary band described by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as “Rock’s first integrated, multi-gender band, funky Pied Pipers to the Woodstock Generation, synthesizing rock, soul, R&B, funk and psychedelia into danceable, message-laden, high-energy music.”

The members of the Millennial Territory Orchesta were accompanied by keyboardist Bernie Worrell from Funkadelic, guitar player Vernon Reid from Living Colour and vocalists Martha Wainwright, Sandra Saint Victor, Shilpa Ray and Dean Bowman, who joyously evoked the spirit of Woodstock as they took the audience “Higher and Higher.”

Sandra Saint Victor and Steve Bernstein

Shilpa Ray

Vernon Reid

Martha Wainwright

Bernie Worrell

Dean Bowman

Steven Bernstein

The Millennial Territory Orchestra
Sly and the Family Stone
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Sly and the Family Stone
Steven Bernstein
MySpace: Vernon Reid
Living Colour
Martha Wainwright
Bernie Worrell
Sandra Saint Victor
Shilpa Ray
MySpace: Dean Bowman
River to River Festival
Castle Clinton National Monument

Have fun in the park … but watch your step

March 22, 2009

Spring has finally arrived and New Yorkers are running outside to take advantage of the first weekend of the season. These warm, sunny days are inspiring many to shed their heavy coats and venture onto the 29,000 acres of land controlled by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

If you plan to join them, enjoy yourself … but remember that there are rules in the parks. Serious rules. Lots of them. Here are some of the warning signs posted in and around the city’s parks and playgrounds. Have fun and watch your step.

South Cove Park

Central Park

James Bogardus Triangle Park

The Esplanade Park

Tramway Plaza Park

The Esplanade Park

Red Hook Park

Battery Park

Central Park

The Esplanade Park

Red Hook Park

City Hall Park

Erie Basin Park

Red Hook Pool

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

You’d better watch out

December 24, 2008

You’d better watch out
You’d better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
And checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

-J. Fred Coots, Henry Gillespie, 1934

Watch out and you might run into the jolly old elf anywhere — even in midtown Manhattan. Many people wandered by without noticing, but I spotted him, sitting in a bright red sleigh, beneath an enormous tree in Bryant Park.

With a friend in Bryant Park

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

Chordie: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Newseum: “Yes, Virigina”

Public Prayer Booths

November 13, 2008

On an excursion to the Upper East Side, I noticed what appeared to be — from a distance — a telephone booth. Sort of. But something about the booth seemed a little bit “off.”

I went closer to investigate and saw that it wasn’t a phone booth at all. A sign posted on the nearby fence explained that this was a sculpture called Public Prayer Booth by artist Dylan Mortimer and said that, “According to the artist, this work is meant to spark dialogue about how private faith functions within the public realm.” Constructed of aluminum, plastic and vinyl, it combines the ideas of a telephone booth and a prayer station and includes a padded, blue flip-down kneeler.

The Kansas City-based artist says, “My goal is to spark dialogue about a topic often avoided, and often treated cynically by the contemporary art world. I employ the visual language of signage and public information systems, using them as a contemporary form of older religious communication systems: stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, church furniture, etc. I balance humor and seriousness, sarcasm and sincerity, in a way that bridges a subject matter that is often presented as heavy or difficult.”

Two Prayer Booths are on display in Tramway Plaza (near the entrance to the Roosevelt Island Tram) until the end of this month.

Booth near the entrance to the Roosevelt Island Tram

The sign on the fence explains the work

Instructions for using the kneeler

Someone has slapped stickers on this booth

Most people don’t seem to notice the booths

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation: Dylan Mortimer
Dylan Mortimer

90 Years After The War to End All Wars

November 11, 2008

It started on June 28, 1914. While traveling through the streets of Sarajevo in an open car, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was shot and killed by a Serbian assassin. One month later, in retaliation, the Austro-Hungarian government declared war on Serbia.

That declaration marked the beginning of World War I. The scope and reach of the conflict was unprecedented: more than 65 million men battled around the globe for four years, resulting in the death of more than nine million soldiers.

This was the first war to employ advanced technology such as airplanes, tanks and submarines, the first time that governments achieved wholesale killing with automatic weapons and poisonous gasses. The slaughter continued until the morning of November 11, 1918. It was close to dawn of that day when British, French and German officials gathered in a railway carriage to the north of Paris and signed the Armistice – the cease fire – that brought about the end of the fighting.

At the time, it was widely believed that when society saw the horrors and costs of modern warfare, no nation would ever again be tempted to fight, and led to the conflict being described as The War To End All Wars. Sadly, of course, it wasn’t; in fact, there have been more than 150 wars in the 90 years since the Armistice was signed.

If you visit Sarajevo, you’ll have a hard time locating the place where it all started. The spot where Franz Ferdinand was shot is marked by a small bronze plaque set in the pavement. If you don’t search closely, you could easily miss the obscure memorial.

In contrast, the memory of WWI’s fallen troops is preserved by countless monuments and markers, including this one, which stands on Brooklyn’s Van Brunt Street outside post No. 5195 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

On the base of the statue is a plaque that says, “Red Hook Memorial Doughboy. Erected in honor of those men and women of the Third Assembly District who served in the World War and in remembrance of those of their number who lost their lives and whose names ware here inscribed.”

Below the bronze plaque is a list of more than 90 names; schoolmates, friends and neighbors, all lost from a small, working class area in a remote corner of Brooklyn.

Chances are, no one alive today remembers those boys. Their parents, sweethearts, wives and children —  those who were touched by their lives and deaths — may have vanished into the mists of time, but today, on the 90th anniversary of the end of “The War to End All Wars,” we should all pause and remember.

Red Hook Memorial Doughboy

The Heritage of the Great War
First World War
The Great War Society
The Western Front Association
National World War I Museum
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Just Hangin’ Around

September 26, 2008

David Blaine is an entertainer who is usually called a magician. However, while he does perform some slight of hand and street magic, he is best known as part of the long tradition of performers who have gotten themselves into, and out of, difficult situations with great flourish and showmanship. Blaine specializes in highly-publicized stunts that test his endurance: among other feats he has been encased in ice, entombed in a plastic box, and stood atop a pole for long stretches of time.

A few days ago he began his latest project, called the “Dive of Death.” It is supposed to entail Blaine hanging upside down above Central Park’s Wollman Skating Rink for 60 hours. The stunt will end tonight at about 11:15, culminating in what is being described as a spectacular finale involving big balloons, acrobats and music.

Today I stopped by the Park to see Blaine hanging upside down and was very surprised to see him standing right side up. He was standing on a platform, drinking juice from a bottle. When he finished the juice, he followed it with a bottle of water. Eventually, he was moved away from the platform and suspended from a crane. The area around the rink was surrounded by metal security barricades and dozens of enormous guards with thick necks, shaved heads and earpieces.

Spectators took pictures and some were escorted behind the barriers to pose for photos with Blaine. While they were waiting, a teenaged Blaine fan in the crowd named Joseph quietly performed magic tricks for those around him. His appearance wasn’t planned, wasn’t publicized, wasn’t paid, and was barely even noticed by most of those who surrounded him. Too bad. It was more entertaining to watch the boy doing card tricks and causing a straw man to rise on his palm than it was to see David Blaine hanging upside down.

By the way, if you would like to reach Joseph, you’ll find him in Queens at 347-484-6148.

David Blaine, standing on a platform

Not upside down

Being hoisted up

Finally, hanging!

Upside down man

Joseph the street magician working in the crowd

The elaborate set built in Wollman Rink

Entertainment Weekly: I Don’t Get It
Live News: David Blaine’s a fake, claim angry witnesses
Times Online: David Blaine rubbished over breaks
Gothamist: David Blaine Starts Upside-Down Stunt Over Wollman Rink
Sydney Morning Herald: The Blaine Game – No dive, no death
Times Online: Hanging about like a sloth. Call that magic?

Art In-Site on Governors Island

September 20, 2008

Governors Island is slowly being transformed from an abandoned military base to a public arts and recreation center. Many of the old houses have been stabilized and are open to visitors who can walk freely through their empty, echoing rooms.

The Sculptors Guild has organized a large 70th anniversary exhibition on the island, with works displayed out of doors and inside one of the recently restored and reopened buildings. The show, called In-Site, will close on October 1 and the island closes for the season on October 5.

If you have the time to go, take one of the free ferries from Lower Manhattan; they go to Governors Island every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Don’t miss the boat or you’ll have to wait until next year.

By the way … I wasn’t able to match up all of the works I saw with their creators. If you can identify the sculptors, please let me know.

Wooden sculpture by Beth Morrison

Sculpture on Governors Island by Renata Schwebel

Sculpture by Judith Steinberg

Sculpture on Governors Island by Mary Ellen Scherl

Sculpture made from shingles by Lucy Hodgson

Bench by Steven Ceraso & John Fekner

Work by Anti Liu

By Jerelyn Hanrahan

Work by Rune Olsen

Mummy’s Desire by Katja Jakobsen

Work by Jeremy Comins

Sculpture by Mary Judge

Work by Rick Briggs

Woman by Lloyd Glasson

Doorway by Julie Tesser

Sculpture by Patricia Anne Mandel

Man by Stephanie Rocknak


Wooden bust

The Sculptors Guild
New York State: Governors Island
National Park Service: Governors Island

Low Life City

September 7, 2008

Inspired by the book Low Life: The Lures and Snares of Old New York, Low Life City celebrates New York’s seamy underside.

For the past decade, it has been held on the Lower East Side (the setting for the book), and recreates the forms of entertainment enjoyed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the neighborhood’s notorious criminals, drunkards, prostitutes, losers, thieves, gangsters, beggars, swindlers and reformers.

This year’s edition of Low Life City was held in Tompkins Square Park. Bowery boys, Irish tenors, saloon singers, burlesque dancers, Victorian ladies and street urchins perform with modern sensibilities and great good humor. The cast included Hattie Hathaway, Joey Arias, Basil Twist, Dirty Martini, Pinchbottom Burlesque, the Vangeline Theater, the Duelling Bankheads, World Famous *BOB*, Adam Joseph, the Pixie Harlots, Heather Litteer and Tigger.

Although the organizers bill Low Life City as “not recommended for children!” there were quite a few very young faces in the crowd. The kids enjoyed the music, dancing, puppets, feathers and sequins while the bawdy humor and naughty political references went right over their little heads.

Amber Ray at Low Life

Heather Litteer at Low Life

Changing the cards

Duelling Bankheads campaign

Joey Arias with glass of absinthe

Joey Arias at Low Life

Pinchbottom Burlesque at Low Life

Vangeline Theatre


Acid Betty and Ephiphany in a “sister act”

Acid Betty

Adam Joseph as the Irish Tenor

Dirty Martini with her fan

Tigger and the evils of the bottle

Delirium Tremens unzips

Delirium Tremens in her scanties

Voltaire singing about evil devil songs

Poison Eve with chickens on her hands

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante
Low Life City
Amber Ray
Dirty Martini
Miss Delirium Tremens
Joey Arias
MySpace: Adam Joseph
MySpace: Hattie Hathaway
MySpace: Pinchbottom Burlesque
MySpace: Tigger
MySpace: World Famous *Bob*

A Stray Dog in the Park

August 29, 2008

There is is, right near the lamp post, a dog standing all by himself. When you get closer, you can see by the harness he wears that he is a service dog, trained to help his disabled owner. But … where is the owner? And why isn’t the dog moving?

This is Stray Dog by New York-based sculptor Tony Matelli. Lifelike and life-sized, created in resin, he stands beside the park at Brooklyn MetroTech center, baffling and delighting those who spot him and attempt to come to his rescue.

Stray Dog

Stray Dog from another angle

Stray Dog by Tony Matelli

Brooklyn MetroTech
New York Times: A Fertile Garden Of Sculptures
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design: Tony Matelli

And Liberty, Liberty For All

August 26, 2008

I did a double-take when I got a double view of the Statue of Liberty in Battery Park.

Click on the photo for a larger image; note the cover of the book the sunbather is reading, and see its twin out in the harbor behind him.


His book: Censored 2008: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006-07

Return to the Arab-American Heritage Festival

July 20, 2008

It was a hot, busy day, and by the time I arrived in Prospect Park, this year’s Arab-American Heritage Festival was nearly over. I still had time, though, to hear some rousing music, rummage through the stalls and enjoy some delicious treats.

As the vendors began to pack up their wares, I rushed to buy something I could take home for tomorrow’s dinner, a home made dish of garlicky, cumin-scented chicken, rice and beans prepared by a beaming Egyptian mom.

Chicken cooking on grill (not my dinner)

Home made stuffed grape leaves

Vendor at his stall

Jewelry for sale

Decals for sale at a vendor’s stall

Buttons for sale

Kuffiyehs for sale

Artisan applying henna tattoo

Banners hanging from tent



Home made spinach pie

Home made baklava


Woman with cell phone

2007 Arab American Heritage Festival
Arab American Association of New York
Arab-American Family Support Center
Prospect Park

Pink in the Park

July 6, 2008

These bright pink flowers, known as echinacea, are growing at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

I found them thriving — safely away from tourists’ feet — behind an iron fence in a quiet corner of busy Battery Park.

By the way, in case you were wondering … no, these images weren’t Photoshopped (I don’t even own Photoshop). Mother Nature gave the flowers that color, not me.

Echinacea in Battery Park

Echinacea behind iron fence


NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Battery Park
The Battery Conservancy

Rector Gate

June 17, 2008

More from the archive.

Several large pieces of public art are installed along the Esplanade in Battery Park City, where they stand under the watchful eyes of the doormen at the surrounding luxury apartment buildings. If you go to see the installations, you should expect the uniformed men to scrutinize you carefully, as they consider the art to be “theirs.”

This one, Rector Gate, forms a 50 foot high archway at the intersection of Rector Place and the Esplanade. Built by R.M. Fischer in 1989, Rector Gate is made of stainless steel, bronze, and granite and is illuminated at night. The artist is said to have drawn his inspiration from the past and future and included elements from skyscrapers and science fiction.

The gate

The sides look like enormous cheese graters

From here, you can see across the Hudson River

The top seems to be a combination radio tower, weather vane & weapon

Looking through the gate to New Jersey

Top of the sculpture

Looking up

Birds have built nests in the light fixture

Battery Park City
Rector Gate
Sandra Gering Gallery: R.M. Fisher
Culture Now: Battery Park City Map

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