One World Observatory with Walks of New York

One World Observatory
One World Observatory

The One World Trade Center’s new observation deck has recently opened and I visited as part of a Walks of New York tour.

Led by local New Yorkers, these small group tours hone in on specific subject (say, photography) or neighbourhood (eg. the Lower East Side) and go deep, but not too deep–less facts and figures, more personal histories.

The main draw of Walks of New York’s WTC Tour & One World Observatory tour may seem to be the pre-reserved tickets to the observatory, but prior to entering the WTC the guide leads a fascinating two-hour tour of the surrounding area. I rarely visit this area myself, feeling there’s something not quite right about gawking around the disaster sites, but I was very glad to have taken this tour and to have learned a more personal side to the events of that day–and the weeks, months and years afterwards.

The tour began at St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City’s oldest public building, which, amazingly, was not damaged at all during the attacks. Even these 18th-century chandeliers were left intact.

St Paul's Chapel
St Paul’s Chapel

The church soon became a refuge for the rescue workers who couldn’t get home after their 12-hour shifts. Messages of support came in from around the world–including these cranes from Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

This bell was presented to St. Paul’s in solidarity from the Mayor of London.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

The new transit hub at Fulton Center has recently been completed.

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

The mix of old and new architecture in Lower Manhattan is striking. This is the Woolworth building, completed in 1913, parts of which are being developed into luxury apartments.

Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building

Speaking of luxury apartments, here is “New York by Gehry,” the tallest residential tower in the Americas.

Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Modern and Romanesque
Modern and Romanesque

Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transit Hub is years overdue and millions of dollars over budget. Still, here’s a look at the Oculus in construction.

The Oculus in construction
The Oculus in construction

And the PATH station’s Platform B.

PATH Station at WTC
PATH Station at WTC

Brookfield Place, when it was called the World Financial Center was terribly damaged on 9/11. The Winter Garden, which had all the windows blown out, has been beautifully restored and has been expanded to hold a variety of great food vendors, including Le District, a kind of French Eataly.

Brookfield Place
Brookfield Place
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Memorial
Memorial

So to the observatory. Super high-speed elevators whisk visitors 102 floors up in about 40 seconds. During that brief time, video screens inside the elevators show a CGI timelapse of New York City history–the landscape of Lower Manhattan from the year 1500 until today. It was one of my favourite parts.

Then, upstairs you are obliged to watch a bit of a kitschy video celebrating NYC before the screen goes up to reveal the skyline to cheers from the crowd.

Thankfully that is the only cringey part of the experience and you are then left alone to wander the observation deck and take in the 360-degree views at your leisure.

One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory

Thanks to Walks of New York for hosting me on their tour.

The Little Red Lighthouse

IMG_2462

“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.

The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.

It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”

 

 

New York City in Pictures

Subway. Photo by author.

The first time I ever went to New York, I travelled with my friend Jane and a torn out map of Sex in the City locations. In my early twenties, finishing up college in the early years of the millennium, I thought that a designer shopping, martini sipping lifestyle was what I was supposed to be moving towards because that was the message I was reading via the fashion magazines I used to buy.

The first time I went to New York City alone, a train conductor spied me puzzling over a map and slyly asked if I was running away from home.

I usually try to return to NYC every year, but vapid thoughts of SATC stay where they belong: the early 2000s. I don’t visit to run away anymore, although I often visit alone. Strangely I find a closeness in the big city; that there’s a space for me among the differences I see between everyone. Now that I live in a city where I have to drive everywhere, riding the subway gives me a feeling of connection that is missing in my current (temporary) hometown.

My relationship with the city has changed in the ten years since my first visit. NYC isn’t something to be feared or conquered; I don’t approach it as if attending a job interview anymore.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

I stayed at the Jane Hotel in the West Village. The red-brick building used to house sailors and was occupied by Titanic survivors in 1912. Staff are dressed in red old-timey bellhop uniforms — the lady that checked me in owned hers; complementing it with huge red-framed oval glasses. The rooms are tiny, befitting the nautical theme that runs throughout, and country accents, such as a stuffed peacock and antlers in the lobby, lend a bohemian air.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

During the day I took the subway to and from Brooklyn.

Skyline from Subway. Photo by author.

Walked through Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brooklyn Cherry Blossom. Photo by author.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.
Crabapple. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.

I walked along the High Line.

High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
Bird feeders along High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.

…And through the streets of Manhattan.

Manhattan sky. Photo by author.
NYC. Photo by author.

I saw Pulp at Radio City Music Hall.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by author.

I went to the Weegee exhibit at the International Center of Photography, and the Diego Rivera and Cindy Sherman exhibitions at the MOMA.

Cindy Sherman at the MOMA. Photo by author.

I ate pho at Saigon Shack, cupcakes at Molly’s, breakfast at the Breslin, drank coffee at Stumptown and a Dark and Stormy at Commonwealth.

Dark n’ Stormy. Photo by author.

I drank a cocktail called Paris is Burning with Strippertweets, Maura and Melissa at the NoMad Hotel,’s Library Bar, a spicy hot chocolate at the Chocolate Bar and ate two Crack Pies from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Crack Pie. Photo by author.