Monday, March 22, 2010

NYC Walk from Dia, Soho to St. Peter's: Art, Parks, Retreats(link to map of pocket parks for mid-day retreats)


Today we joined 
AMC  for  Soho to Uptown NYC , highlighing art, church design, pocket parks and indoor/outdoor water falls
The group met on the corner of Broadway and Houston, and we were happy to start clocking our 6 miles -- 12,000 steps -- on the old pedometer traipsing around the canyons of NYC.

Dia Soho Our first stop was 141 Wooster St, home of Dia Soho. Here we saw one of Walter de Maria's Land Art installations: The New York Earth Room. This interior earth sculpture, on view since 1980, consists of 3600 square feet of earth at a depth of 22 inches and weighing a total of 280,000 pounds. How many Mack trucks would that be?
From here, we walked to West Broadway to see another Dia installation by the same artist: The Broken Kilometer. It's a huge room full of brass rods, 500 in all, laid out to cover the floor with an illusion of perspective, and weighing nearly 19 tons.

That's right. That's a pair of sneakers dangling from a sign down the street from Dia. Possibly left by one of last night's patrons?

The diagonal of a crane lifting chillers to a building roof creates its own art. Sunday mornings, when traffic is light, are typically reserved for jobs like this in NY.

We hopped on the subway for a quick trip to Rockefeller Center. We followed the AMC leader like a flock of geese.

These glass and metal skyscrapers, marching up 6th avenue, were built in the 1960s when the International Style was all the rage in architecture.

The Magnolia Bakery, one of NYC's cupcake kings, at 50th and 6th Avenue is a landmark building. It's former owner, Hurley's bar, was the single holdout that refused to sell to the developers of Rockefeller Center in the 1930s.

Radio City Music Hall, home of the high-kicking Rockettes, is a quintessential icon of Rockefeller Center's Art Deco style.

The lobby of the AXA Equitable Company features this dynamic Thomas Hart Benton WPA mural, which depicts the triumph of capitalism and industry in the US.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue and 53rd St. It's immense Rose window and asymmetrical towers make it an unmistakable hallmark of French High Gothic style, which was popular in turn-of-the-twentieth century New York.

The Church's altar is a study in High Gothic. Perhaps a bit over the edge?

On our way out, we glanced back at the highly decorative exterior.

Takashimaya, the Japanese department store just across 5th Avenue, offers a dramatic contrast in architectural style.

Down the street at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street stands the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, another masterpiece of the Gothic style.

The actual entrance is around the corner at 7 West 55th Street.

The choir loft, with organ pipes. Architectural features include the semicircular ogives, or pointed arches, filled with curlicued woodwork that appears Islamic. The ogival arches are echoed below in double windows with transept above. The ogival theme is carried through on the bottom floor with yet another pointed arch. Another architectural wonder: this chapel was built without the use of right angles.

A favorite tourist spot is the Plaza Apartments and Hotel, where the fabled Eloise used to live and new condos start at $1 million--which seems like a bargain to us in NYC's superheated real estate market.

Plaza Hotel fountain. It may look bare now. in very early spring, but it's a beehive of activity in warmer weather. Rap dancers and musicians show off their talents here all summer long.

Our group almost lost two hikers to one of these Central Park Hanson Cabs.

You never know who's catching your moves in NYC. Mimes of all costumes and colors abound around town. Is that Elton John, complete with enormous bow tie and glittered glasses?

Can this be Lady Liberty in Central Park?

We found a nice waterside site to eat our bagels and Cliff Bars. The towers of the Majestic and San Remo apartments rise in the distance.

Our group takes a breather and absorbs the ambiance at lobby bar of the Parker Meridian Hotel on West 57th Street. It's said that it's well-hidden Burger Joint is the best in the city.
Also right there in the hotel, you can get the best pancakes in town at the breakfast and lunch restaurant, Norma's.

Our next stop was the Trump Tower Atrium at 725 5th Avenue. We were looking for the waterfall here, but it had been turned off because of construction--the first of the four that we were supposed to see.

We drooled at the sight of terrific-looking frozen daquiris and margaritas being served up at the mezzanine bar. As usual, The Donald spared no expense: check out that travertine (we think) wall.

We left the Trump Tower through the back exit into The Midtown Book, formerly the IBM Building. This knitting circle is profiting from the bright light and palm-treed shelter while the members work and exchange skills and secrets.

The colorful Jean Dubuffet sculptures which lend the atrium an air of whimsy. One of the tramps made some new friends.

One of the group found a $20 bill behind a seat cushion at the Parker Meridian and decided to share his new-found wealth by buying pastries for all of us.

Paley Park, on East 53rd Street between 5th and Madison, featured the only waterfall we did get to see. During the warmer months there is a small snack bar open in this lovely pocket park.

Just steps east of Paley Park is another pocket park, Urban Plaza. It's home to a large segment of the Berlin Wall which was torn down on October 3, 1989, resulting in the unification of east and west Germany. It is interesting to see the brightly decorated western side compared to the stark, bare cement of the eastern side shown below.

The Olympic Tower, which houses The Onassis Cultural Center, is home of a terrific, free museum that features classical Greek art. Unfortunately, as we discovered, it is closed on Sundays, and so is it's waterfall, the 3rd we were to have seen today.

At least we were able to enjoy one of the motifs of the exhibit enlarged beautifully on this lobby wall.

As we were walking east to our next stop, we caught a glimpse of the outdoor sculpture event that marked the median of Park Avenue from 50th to 59th Street.

St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, at Park Avenue and 51st Street, reveals an eclectic mixture of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. St. Bart's is a house of worship and a cultural center.

We all sat for a while to admire the majestic beauty of the Romanesque altar and apse.

The inside of the dome features a network of colorful carved wood that would not be out of place in a mosque.

We left St. Bart's and walked east on 51st Street. We stopped to look through the gate at this pocket park between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It and its waterfall, we discovered, were closed on Sundays. We liked the modernized building in the left background.

Next to the park stands the Sutton Place Synagogue at 225 East 51st Street.

St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 54th Street and Lexington Avenue, is another New York cultural and religious center.

Just inside the lobby is a stunningly visual art display, The Ten Commandments, by Rudy Wolff.

In the church's Chapel of the Good Shepard is the permanent installation sculpted by Louise Nevelson.

St. Peter's Church air rights:
Over the years, as the city has grown more crowded and real estate become more valuable, religious institutions and others have sold their air rights to commercial developers. St. Peter's is an example, as this view above the church attests.

At the end of the tour, we said good-bye to the rest of the group as they headed into the sunset.

We couldn't resist snapping this view of the Lipstick Building at 3rd Avenue and 53rd Street. The notorious Bernie Madoff had offices here on the 17th floor.

Making our way up 3rd Avenue, we checked our pedometers and we found we came within a whisker of our 6 mile goal. If only we had not taken the 2+ mile-ride on the F train to get uptown!

Maybe next week we'll make it to the mountains?