|NEW YORK CITY GUIDE: PARKS AND SQUARES|
Offbeat destinations for adventurous visitors
(Words: ©ablarc from Wired New York; Photos:© urban75)
The best you don't want to miss. They are:
Everyone goes to Central Park. The Castle's a great place to view the skyline, the sunning turtles and an exquisite frog skeleton in a display case, but the best part of Central Park is The Ramble...make-believe nature improved by man, a concept familiar to anyone English.
Start across from the Dakota, where Chapman shot Lennon (72nd Street at Central Park West), cross into the park, where you'll find that event memorialized, head east, then north around the lake, cross the Bow Bridge, and then proceed aimlessly north. Try to get lost and spot some wildlife.
New York's liveliest, and like the others once the realm of low-lifes. Now you'll find the Starbucks crowd shopping for organic produce on market days, Mo, We, Fr, Sa, 8-6.
Newly restored Madison Square, 9 blocks up Broadway, is nice, not as lively, and flanked by some nifty architecture, including the original MetLife Building and the Flatiron, now possibly shrouded in scaffolding.
Unlike in Times Square, most folks you see will be New Yorkers.
Union Square and E17th Street 360º panorama
About to be rebuilt with the fountain to be moved on axis with the arch and Fifth Avenue, this is a good place for people watching.
You can sit on a bench and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch you assembled for yourself at the stupendously well-stocked deli and salad bar at University Place, just up from Waverly Place.
Here you'll also find picturesque Washington Mews, a street of stables for the splendid Greek Revival rowhouse/mansions that line Washington Square's northern edge.
Both mansions and mews are now mostly New York University offices. Henry James, Richard Morris Hunt, John Dos Passos, Edward Hopper and various other well-heeled artists lived here in the Square's Nineteenth Century (and subsequent) heyday, before several of the houses were swept away for a crass apartment building.
If you think Washington Mews was picturesque, wait till you see its western counterpart, McDougal Alley. Accessible only from McDougal Street, this gives new meaning to the term "gated community."
Feel free to open the gate and enter. This will remind you of places in London's Chelsea; the carriage houses have evolved in such diverse ways. You have to be rich.
Washington Square 360º panorama
The East Village edition of Washington Square is bigger, less genteel, a little remote and about equally good for watching people. Walk to it from Washington Square via 8th Street and you'll pass a little zoo of architectural specimens called Astor Place.
Here Charles Gwathmey's undulating and glossy high rise plays svelte campanile to Cooper Union's motley collection of corpulent piles, and an amazing colonnade (once row houses) that looks plucked from Bath's Royal Crescent for a straightening.
Some specimens at Astor Place are interesting as individuals, but the whole remains a traffic intersection, not a place.
In the middle lurks a reconstructed subway headhouse (Art Nouveau or perhaps Turkish) of the type that used to abound; and elsewhere a cube appears balanced jauntily on one point.
At tuition-free Cooper Union, three subjects are taught professionally: engineering, art, and between them of course, architecture. They should appoint Calatrava as dean; he has all three subjects aced.
Eighth Street changes its name to St. Mark's Place; here you can still buy patchouli and a Che Guevara poster. Then you're in Tompkins Square, once home to a largish bidonville of homeless shanties.
When the city commenced eviction, rioting ensued. The people who live thereabouts fancy themselves progressive.
St Marks Place 360º panorama
It's easy to think of this as New York's best park. It's definitely Parisian, everything is just so --especially impressive to those who know that just a decade ago this was New York's most dangerous needle park.
Come with a little lunch or buy some at the kiosk, or if you're feeling flush eat at the grill.
Any way you do it, you're bound to hang around for an hour or more. So many people to watch, such pleasant and salubrious surroundings, so much architecture to ogle. Just right.
Like a quiet London residential square, with some really refined architecture and a Philippe Starck conversion of the former Gramercy Park Hotel. You need a key to access the park proper
Grand Central Station. On the American model, not the British. The big space is for people; the trains lurk in tunnels. In the basement, a great food court. Up the steps: mezzanine restaurants with bars.
Up the escalators: the MetLife (Pan Am) Building (Walter Gropius, et al.) Grand Central functions like an indoor square; hence its inclusion here.
Grand Central Station 360º panorama
Brooklyn Academy of Music. Watch for Philip Glass. World Music?
Urban Center Bookstore. Every book you could want on architecture, urban design and planning. 457 Madison Avenue at 51st Street behind St. Patrick's in the forecourt of a hotel, once town houses for the rich. Go from the court into the hotel lobby for an eyeful of art nouveau pink marble and some pretty amazing carving. Continue to freshly-restored Lever House and a bit beyond: the Seagram Building.
The Frick Collection Chamber Music Series is nothing short of sublime and almost free, but tickets are nearly impossible to cop.
Some people get lucky, however:
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