Sunday, November 6, 2016

Open House NY - 2016

The ceiling of the New York City Hall Rotunda.  None of the pictures I've found online for it do justice to what I saw on the Open House New York weekend. If one ever has a chance to visit city hall, don't fight it - tour it!

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City hall was only one of the places I had planned to visit today.  I only wish I had company for today's trip to Manhattan, as it was an experience worth sharing.  

If one is going to take full advantage of the OHNY.org weekend, one has to get up early in the morning and plan one's destinations very carefully.  Many places are not worth the time spent getting to them. In fact, one of those places was on my list today. But that visit was made worthwhile by a trip to the women's loo.  Yes, women were going to the loo just for the priceless view of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.  (Too bad that I didn't get pictures when I sat down to pee....)


My list of things to see:
  1. The NYC Municipal Building. (worthwhile only for a visit to the loo).
  2. New York City Hall. (A beautiful interior coupled with first rate portrait art.)
  3. Mmuseumm.  (This is the smallest museum in NYC.)
  4. The Low Line Lab. (A model for a park to be built in an abandoned trolley terminal.)
And this year, I was able to see everything I wanted to see.  But this was because I had modest plans for today.  

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I didn't expect much going in to the NYC Municipal Building.  However, in the Speaker of the Borough of Manhattan's offices, they had some art on display.  The image to the left was typical of these artworks.  However, they had historical images of the Municipal Building in another room, and I found them more interesting - but not worth the effort I made to visit the place.

As I was about to leave, I had to go to the loo.  Being in Marian Mode, it was only natural for me to go to the women's room  In the past, I used to worry about being seen as a "man in a dress" when going to the ladies' loo.  Now, I am much more confident, as I find myself accepted as a woman unless I do something unbecoming of a woman. 

Although there was a short line for the loo, it was not for a stall where could sit down and pee.  No, the line consisted of women waiting for a chance to visit the one stall that had a window with a view of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. Sadly, I was not able to get a picture from this special stall.  A woman actually needed to use it for a while, and I needed to get out of the building, and get on line to see City Hall across the street. So, I washed my hands, and another woman took my place in the stall - doing her business, not caring on whether she had a priceless view of the river or not. And it was out the building I went, and across the street to a building whose steps I used to walk on prior to 9/11/2001.

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Ever since 9/11. City Hall has been mostly closed to the public. There is security on the little "street" that passes in front of the building, and no one without official permission gets anywhere near the building anymore.  This is a shame.  But we live in a very different society today than we did 15 years ago. America lives in unneeded fear, and our policed state is a result of that fear.

However, City Hall is occasionally open to the public, and I have found that they do schedule tours on a regular basis.  But it is not like what is offered on OHNY weekend, where one can drop in without an appointment - and enter the building after going through a metal detector in an outside building.  (I'm glad that I didn't have to show my id, as I don't need headaches from a security guard seeing Mario's id.)  

Once I got in the building, I saw a sculpture of George Washington off to the right of which I wanted to take a picture - just as my cell phone's battery gave out.  Again, I was lucky to have the foresight to carry an external battery that I can use to charge the phone while both taking pictures and making phone calls.

This ceiling work of art is found in the City Council chamber. I was impressed that it looked so good.  But then, I overheard a conversation going on behind me, where the restoration of City Hall was being discussed.  Of course, I listened in, and then turned around to become an active listener.  What I didn't know was that this fellow was an architect for the City, and had hands on involvement in the restoration.  This made me wish that I had payed attention a bit earlier, as there is much that I could have learned by listening to this fellow.

Diagonally across the way, there were three rooms reserved for formal meetings.  One of the docents mentioned that the rooms were painted in a blue-green so that the gold-leaf picture frames would "pop", making the pictures in the frames stand out that much more.  

Although these pictures were valuable works of art, they were not great works of art. Their value was more historical than artistic. And I would not have gone out of my way to see these paintings had they been in any other venue.  

What made City Hall worth seeing is the Rotunda, its staircase, and the ceiling above it. And I could not do any of them justice with a cell phone camera. You'll have to find professional photos of this area if you want a good idea of how it looked.  But it you don't, the picture at the beginning of this entry will give you a small idea of what I saw.

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After City Hall, it was off to the Mmuseum.  (The spelling is correct.)  This "vest pocket" museum is located in a former freight elevator on Cortlandt Alley,  It is truly the smallest museum in the city.

The line of people waiting to get into the museum when I arrived was greater than the line of people within the museum.  If you think that one can't make a meaningful display in such a small space, consider this. On one of the shelves was a set of coins minted for the Islamic State to be used in territory it controls. And on another shelf was an incomplete set of Donald Trump's failed products.

As much as one can say that it is not worth going far out of your way to see this museum, I strongly recommend taking the time out in a visit to New York to stop by and look at the artifacts on display.  I think that You'll be surprised at what you'll find in this tiny space.

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Next on my list of places to visit was the Lowline Lab.  This organization has taken over one of the Essex Street market buildings and has built a small scale mockup of the underground park they plan to build in an abandoned trolley car terminal adjacent to the Delancey/Essex subway station.

I don't think I could this place on one of its best days, as there was an active promotion going on, sponsored by an outdoor gear vendor.  The colors were not what I'd expected from the literature I've read on this proposed park, and I think that was due to the promotion that was going on.

Hopefully, they will be able to start building this park soon.  Like the "High Line" park on the West Side, it will be unique to New York City. From what little I've seen, I think they have the right idea of what to do with the space, and it will attract more people than the High Line does when the weather cools down. I'll certainly go there again when the park is finished - and take friends with me when I go.

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Sadly, all good things have to end, and this applied for my day in the City.  Getting home would be like my trip into the city - I'd have to take a shuttle bus to get me back to the subway station where my car was parked.  

When the MTA does any work on the Dyre Avenue line, they run shuttle buses between the stations. However, unlike many lines, the Dyre Avenue line runs diagonal to the Bronx street grids it crosses, and some stations are not on major streets. This means that a trip between stations that should take 5 minutes will end up taking over 30 minutes. And this was the case today, when I had to stand for 30 minutes on the way to the 180th street station. Luckily, I was able to score a seat on the return trip to my car.

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Would I do this trip again?  Yes.  But I'd make sure I got photos from the ladies' loo.  Next time, I will try to be online when one can make reservations to see certain sites, as I could have visited the cupola of the Municipal Building - something which would made the trip worthwhile in its own right.

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