Our last few days in New York were gently busy. We walked through the Flower District on our way to Chelsea. I can’t begin to tell you how lovely this spot is, I could have fondled and sniffed for a good while.
We also explored a bit more of Brooklyn and discovered Industry City by accident, although Archie had pointed it out to us when we were on a freeway going out to The Hamptons. However, visiting on foot makes all the difference.
There are so many of these enormous buildings in Brooklyn, all in the process of being gentrified. This one is a fair way along, with the outdoor spaces looking really nice.
As we were exploring the interior we came across some sort of a shindig, which we immediately joined. Here’s Mark enjoying a glass of something brewed on the premises.
I was more pleased to find a shop that sold small weaving looms and dyeing kits.
Back outside we found some fabulous sculptures. I do like a sculpture that I can walk into although I’m sure this is for children! It’s called Delectable by Dan Lam. It has a holographic effect and this glittering texture.
Back in Manhattan (we zigzag a fair bit!) and on the Highline again, I saw this painted on a building. I love this. It says “This book belongs to its owner Fathallah Saad. He bought it with his own money at the beginning of March, 1892”. How wonderful that someone was so proud of buying a book with his own money that he wrote it into a book.
Mother Teresa and Ghandi seem to be facing off in the other bit of street art. The Highline was, unfortunately, still too busy to enjoy so we once again abandoned it, and didn’t get back to it. Luckily we’ve done it a few times, so we weren’t too worried.
Archie had been wanting to do a cookout at Pier 5 in Brooklyn for a while, so he invited some of his friends and we had the most wonderful evening enjoying perfect weather.
The views are breathtaking.
I do like to watch the boys do the cooking – well, some of them cooked!
As night time fell I couldn’t help but be captivated by the lights of Manhattan. I confess to taking a lot of photos.
Mark saw on the news that there was a graffiti exhibition in the Bronx and we thought we should go.
It dates from the 1970s and goes through to the 1980s and the timeline was most interesting.
The Bronx in the 1970s was a very different place from what it is now. Buildings were burned out and graffiti art became a medium for the youth of the day to express their thoughts and feelings, using walls and subway cars as the canvas.
I’m including this one because “Chino” is Archie’s nickname, but it also demonstrates some of the skill of the artists, and also the fact that the artists used their art to protest against injustice.
A photographer, Henry Chalfant documented this graffiti movement from the beginning and focused mostly on the subway car art. He became so well known to the artists that they included him in many of their paintings. His work is now regarded as the most important documentary of this time in the history of the Bronx and is an anthropological insight into urban youth at that time.
Having not thought a great deal about graffiti art I had no idea that the artists kept sketchbooks where they planned the art. Whilst we were looking at these books we struck up a conversation with another visitor who turned out to be one of these early artists, now a graphic designer in California. What an opportunity to get inside information!
He told us that the artists really valued these books and kept them (he still has his) and that they got other artists to add to them too, so they became a real record of the time. He knew Henry Chalfant and many of the artists whose work was on display.
The art is quite beautiful and very colourful. I remember the first time I visited New York, I had never seen graffiti and felt rather intimidated by it. I would see these decorated trains roar through the station and they felt angry somehow. Seeing this exhibition has shown me that there was, in fact, pride in the work and I wish I had taken more notice of it and tried to understand the underlying messages.
Henry Chalfant had to develop a photographic technique to capture the full length of the train as it entered the station. Each individual photograph was pieced into a whole strip and then the lines were smoothed out. A close examination of the finished photographs does show some distortion but this is a very clever technique.
There were a large number of full sized wraps of the trains so that visitors could get an idea of the scale. This is an exhibition worth doing if you have time on your hands in New York City.
We wandered around the Bronx enjoying the architecture.
and arrived at the Yankee Stadium, which is huge. Mark asked to have his photo taken in front of it and I was happy to oblige.
As we walked on, the rooftop sign appeared.
We walked to Harlem and found the Holcombe Rucker Park, a large park with a basketball court in it, famous for the tournaments of streetball organised by Holcombe Rucker, after whom the park is named. Streetball is a rougher version of basketball, but the tournaments here incorporated elements of indoor basketball as well. Rucker instigated the motto “each one, teach one” meaning that skills were passed on from older kids to younger ones. He taught the players to read where necessary, graded their homework and and implemented a system where success at school influenced whether students would play. The tournament fostered over 700 college athletic scholarships.
After Rucker died, two of his protégés created the Rucker pro-league, with games in the summer, which is the off-season for basketball and some of the greatest names of the time played with the local amateur athletes. There are photos of the park during one of these games and there are thousands of spectators – on roofs, up trees, just everywhere. For the people of Harlem, this might have been the only chance they had of seeing some of these great players. This is a piece of sporting history I greatly enjoyed.
We were now at the top end of Manhattan and decided to get some city bikes and ride down to Central Park. This was a great plan except I was wearing a skirt. I did manage to ride all the way to Fifth Avenue, through Central Park, without flashing anyone – I hope!
We arrived at this Bluestone Lane coffee shop which is part of the Church of Heavenly Rest in Fifth Avenue. Archie told us that it’s one of their most popular coffee shops, and there wasn’t a seat to be had on this lovely Sunday afternoon, so we racked our bikes and went off for an ice cream.
On our last day we wandered around the city finding new things to admire. This art work in a shop drew my eye. Each of these butterflies is ceramic – I was too scared to get close in case I knocked one off!
We had seen this piece of street art being painted when we were out for dinner one night and it was lovely to see it complete. There were lines of young girls having their photos taken in front of it.
Archie had told us to check out “Stuytown”, or Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village, which is a large, post-World War II private residential development on the lower east side. The “town” consists of 110 red brick apartment buildings on 80-acres stretching from First Avenue to Avenue C – it’s in Alphabet City, which is such a good name for a location. Apparently this was quite a dangerous place before it was gentrified and I have to say that it is now quite lovely, which surprised us enormously.
The first thing that struck us was the quietness. There is no street noise at all, probably blocked out by the buildings.
The gardens are like parks and I saw my first black squirrels, which are a rare mutation of the grey squirrels.
There are children’s playgrounds, a yoga studio, a library with a study area, a coffee shop, and probably lots of other things. We barely scratched the surface, but we would come back here and explore further if we ever get the chance.
Our last evening was spent with Archie and Anna. After dinner we wandered along the river in Brooklyn, enjoying the view.
We came across a previously unexplored area of riverside parkland with this fountain that kids ran through as the water died down, trying to get from one end to the other before it started spouting again. Such fun to watch!
Of course as holidays come to an end, the packing begins. I always treat packing as an extreme sport, and this time it was no different.
I had to fit this pile into my rather small suitcase. All my clothes were already in space bags, otherwise the pile would have been much bigger!
Everything stuffed in, and there was no way I was getting this case shut without some help (and muscle) from Mark.
Did I do it? Well yes I did!
We had a long time in New York this time – nearly seven weeks away from home, and I have to say that we chose the perfect time of the year to visit. We only had one day of serious rain, with most days being warm. The days were long and we began to notice the darkness closing in earlier just in the last few days. It was of course wonderful to catch up with Archie, and also Hélène and Blanca. As I settle down into a more normal routine and reacquaint myself with my sewing machines, I reflect on this time spent away and sigh with happiness at all we saw and did. A wonderful holiday indeed!