Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Sunday, March 26, 2006

From Third Avenue to Union Square

NYU began making over this area with dormitories (at least one built notoriously, in this neighborhood, with non-union labor.) NYC's very first Trader Joe's has opened on the ground floor of one of them, on the south side of the street. IMG_1133 (Small)

There are times when there is a line not just to pay, but just to get in to shop. The next few blocks are mecca to foodies, with a new (but not well-liked) Whole Foods, IMG_0860 (Small)

a Garden of Eden store,
and the Union Square Greenmarket, IMG_1128 (Small)

the flagship of the Council on the Envionment's initiative to support local farmers while supplying high-quality, often organically-produced fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products to New Yorkers. These cheeses are from Cato Corners, my favorite.

The NYU dorms were designed by Davis, Brody, Bond, who were also responsible for the nearby Zeckendorf Towers (1987),
the reddish brick building in the foreground. IMG_0864 (Small)

The clock tower in the background is an addition to the massive Con Ed building on the north side of the street. It was designed by Warren & Wetmore, better known for Grand Central Terminal, the Heckscher Building, Steinway Hall and many others, but those are buildings I've commented on earlier, on the 57th Street and 42nd Street walks. The earlier part of the building dates from 1915 and was designed by Henry Hardenbergh, best known perhaps for the Dakota apartment house and the Plaza Hotel. (Warren & Wetmore also designed an addition to the Plaza.)

The Con Ed clocktower is built on the site of the Academy of Music, an early and significant cultural institution, later supplanted by the Metropolitan Opera.

Union Square is a park named for the junction of streets that meet and would cross in the area were it not for the decision of the city fathers when they were laying out the grid to leave open space here and name it "Union Square." It has long been a place for political gatherings, protest, and expression. IMG_0878 (Small)

New Yorkers spontaneously converged on the square to express their shock and mourn collectively immediately after 9/11.

In between political protests, and sometimes during them, the southern end of the square is often used by skateboarders. (note sign) IMG_0872 (Small)

A subway kiosk is not old, but part of the restoration and renovation of the park in the late 1980s. IMG_0857 (Small)

Across the street, visible in the background of the subway kiosk photo, is the upper part of a sculpture on the facade of one of the new buildings. I've yet to find anyone who has a good word for it. It seems to me to be an abstract and pretentious version of the fondly remembered Camel billboard in Times Square that puffed out cigarette smoke. Maybe that's not a bad thing, after all. The sculpture dates from 1999, by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel.
IMG_0865 (Small)

More traditionally, a statue of Gandhi by Gautam Pal, strides into the Square. IMG_1125 (Small)

Looking north, one can see the finest mansard roof in New York, on what is now the W Hotel. (This is really a variation of a true mansard roof, which more often is associated with the French Second Empire style, popular during the 1860-1880s. A true mansard roof has a double slope on all four sides, the lower sloped being steeper than the upper. This roof seems to have only one slope, but everyone refers to it as a mansard.) It was the Guardian Life building, originally the Germania Life Insurance Company, built in 1910-11, designed by D'Oench & Yost. The name of the company was changed at the time of WWI to something less inflammatory that re-used as many letters as possible. The building is a designated landmark and the landmarks commission insisted that the W sign retain the character of the original. IMG_0859 (Small)


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