111 Places in New York that you must not miss - Jo-Anne Elikann - ebook
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New York, New York – a crazy quilt of evolving neighborhoods, trends, and tastes, and home to natives and newcomers of every nationality, ethnicity, and outlook. New York City's history and grand ambitions live in every street, park, and hidden alleyway. This unusual guidebook invites the adventurous and curious to explore a wildly diverse selection of little-known places, including: a trapeze school, a giant Buddha in a former porno theater, a Coney Island sideshow, Louis Armstrong's home, a Central Park croquet court, a Gatsby-era speakeasy, and a secret balcony where slaves worshipped 200 years ago. Play chess with the masters on a Midtown office-tower wall; have a pint at a legendary prizefighter's hangout in Soho; whisper messages across a crowded train station. Unexpected and quirky, most of these destinations are so under-the-radar they'll astound even longtime New Yorkers who thought they knew it all!New York, New York … Die Stadt, die niemals schläft, ist nicht nur eine Welt für sich, sondern die ganze Welt in sich - ein Mix aus sich ständig wandelnden Vierteln und Heimat Alteingesessener wie Newcomern jeglicher Nationalität und Mentalität. Dieses Buch lädt Neugierige ein, unbekannte Orte zu erkunden, so etwa einen gigantischen Buddha in einem Sexkino, Spelunken der Gatsby-Ära, das Haus von Louis Armstrong, chinesische Vögel im Freien, Geheimtipps hungriger Hipster, den unwahrscheinlichsten Ort für Flüsterbotschaften oder einen Balkon, auf dem vor 200 Jahren Sklaven beteten. Dermaßen überraschend und schräg sind die Ziele unserer Reise durch die Stadt, dass selbst New Yorker staunen, die dachten, sie kennen hier alles!

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111 Places in New York That You Must Not Miss

Jo-Anne Elikann

emons: Verlag

Imprint

© Emons Verlag GmbH // 2016 All rights reserved German editor: Monika Elisa Schurr All photos © Jo-Anne Elikann except: p. 29 (top) courtesy Il Vagabondo; p. 55 courtesy NY Federal Reserve Bank; p. 83 (top) © Glen diCrocco; p. 89 (top), p. 107, p. 113, p. 131 (top), p. 219 © Susan Lusk; p. 95 (bottom) © Frank Cooper; p. 97 © Yadi Guevara; p. 217 © Jo-Anne Elikann with permission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, Luce Center Visible Storage, Gallery 774 Design: Emons Verlag Maps based on data by Openstreetmap, © Openstreet Map-participants, ODbL ISBN 978-3-96041-230-4 eBook of the original print edition published by Emons Verlag

Did you enjoy it? Do you want more? Join us in uncovering new places around the world on: www.111places.com

Table of contents

Foreword

1_The Afro Archives | Black gold on Malcolm X Boulevard

2_The Algonquin Lounge | Legendary literary lair

3_Alice Austen House | Photographic memory

4_Artists of Color | A treasure trove in the heart of Harlem

5_B&H Dairy Restaurant | Comfort food from the old country

6_The Back Room | Tabooze in a teacup

7_The Batman-Poe Connection | Partners in crime?

8_Berlin Wall Remnants | The art of freedom

9_Bloomingdale’s Retro Restroom | Powder your nose in a Deco ladies’ lounge

10_Bocce at Il Vagabondo | Dinner rolls

11_Bohemian National Hall | Reality Czech

12_Brooklyn Boulders | Have the climb of your life

13_Bubble Building | Downtown’s newest ‘architecture row’

14_Building 92 | The Navy Yard goes green

15_CBGB’s Fashion Makeover | From punk hall to posh haberdashery

16_Chaim Gross’s Village Studio | The way to a man’s art

17_Championship Play | On the world’s largest chessboard

18_The Chelsea Hotel | If the walls could speak, the tales they’d tell

19_Chico Murals | Transformative street art

20_The Chinese Immigrant Experience | MOCA, an American story

21_Chrysler Building Lobby | A triangular gem

22_City Reliquary | Persistence of memorabilia

23_The City’s Heart of Gold | Gold vault at the NY Federal Reserve

24_Coney Island Circus Sideshow | Weirdness and wonder

25_Croquet in the Park | A wicket way to spend the day

26_Cupcake ATM | Swipe here for sweetness

27_The Dakota | Storied stories

28_The Dinner Party | A seat at the table

29_The Drag Show at Lips | Boys will be girls

30_The Dream House | Frequencies in sound and light

31_Driving Along the Hudson | The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers

32_Duke Ellington Stands Tall | Tribute to a jazz pioneer

33_The Dyckman Farmhouse | Dutch treat

34_Eddie’s Shoeshine & Repair | Shoe love

35_The Elevated Acre | Retreat from the street

36_Elizabeth Street Garden | Offbeat urban oasis

37_Enoteca Maria | Because nobody cooks like Nonna

38_Essex Street Market | Taste tradition and nibble the new

39_Fanelli Cafe | The real deal

40_FDR Four Freedoms Park | A dream that wouldn’t die

41_Film Forum | Screen gems

42_Fishing at Sheepshead Bay | Salty dogs and striped bass

43_Float your boat | Waterways in the park

44_Flying Lessons | With no wings attached

45_Ford Foundation Atrium | A refuge from the urban jungle

46_Fragrance Garden | Indulge in sense-sational delights

47_Gertrude Stein Statue | Buddha in Bryant Park

48_The Gospel Truth | Sunday services in Harlem

49_Governors Island | Not that far from the madding crowd

50_Grate sound | Times Square humdinger

51_Greenwich Locksmiths | Captivated by keys

52_Green-Wood Cemetery | Heaven here on earth

53_Hall of Fame for Great Americans | Big men and women on campus

54_Hangman’s Tree | Swinging in Washington Square

55_Harriet Tubman’s Skirt | Towering freedom fighter

56_Henderson Place | A secret street

57_The High Road to a Tibetan Retreat | Elevate your spirits

58_Hua Mei Birds | Sweetly tweeted symphonies

59_Indoor Extreme Sports | Be the game

60_Irish Hunger Memorial | The persistence of memory

61_Jane’s Carousel | A real survivor

62_Jefferson Market Library | A castle with a clock tower

63_Katharine Hepburn Garden | Tribute to a passionate gardener

64_Keith Haring Mural | Whimsical swims

65_Library Way | Words of wisdom underfoot

66_The Louis Armstrong House | Satchmo’s home sweet home

67_Mahayana Buddha | Meditation amidst chaos

68_Manhattan Night Court | A nice place to visit but …

69_Marjorie Eliot’s Sunday Salon | Love, and all that jazz

70_Math Playground | Discovery is way cool

71_Merchant’s House | The Tredwells at home

72_The Microcosm | A roomful of ordinary oddities

73_Modern Pinball | Flipping out in the city

74_Morbid Anatomy | The dark mysteries of life

75_Morris-Jumel Mansion | George Washington slept here

76_The Mossman Collection | Lure of the lock

77_Mount Vernon Hotel & Garden | A country escape, inside the city

78_Nevelson’s Chapel of Tranquility | White Light

79_The News Building | Superman worked here

80_Nuyorican Poets Cafe | Breaking barriers

81_The NY Earth Room | The complexity of simplicity

82_Oldest Manhole Cover | Keeping a lid on it

83_The Old Synagogue | From Ellis Island to Eldridge Street

84_Paley Center for Media | The shows must go on

85_The Panorama of NYC | The not-so-big apple

86_The Park Avenue Armory | Building excitement

87_Pastrami Queen | Love at first bite

88_PDT Speakeasy | Beyond the telephone booth

89_Rats on the Ropes | Odd facade of the Graybar Building

90_Red Hook Winery | Fermenting a great idea

91_Romantic Viewpoint | Enchanting esplanade along the river

92_The Russian-Turkish Baths | Rub-a-dub-dub

93_Scandinavia House | From gravlax to Garbo

94_The Slave Galleries | A screaming silence

95_Small Dog Run | Go to the dogs in Carl Schurz Park!

96_Smorgasburg | Eat, drink, and be merry

97_SoHo Sidewalk Surprise | Watch your step!

98_Stone Street | A taste of the high life

99_Sugar House Window | Relic of a notorious prison

100_Transit System Art | Surprise – the subway’s an art gallery!

101_Tudor City | Utopia, ten minutes from Times Square

102_Under the High Line | Top-level art from the ground up

103_Urban Squats and Gardens | Otherwise occupied

104_Visible Storage at the Met | Hidden riches

105_Wave Hill | Tranquility on the Hudson

106_The Wedding Garden | A photo op for the happy couple

107_Weehawken Street | A shady lane with a shadowy past

108_The Whispering Gallery | Cool acoustic oddity

109_White Horse Tavern | Manhattan’s most haunted pub

110_Winnie-the-Pooh | Friends forever – even longer

111_Yorkville’s Glockenspiel | Where time stands still

Gallery

Maps

Foreword

For over twenty years, I played a fascinating game with New York and myself. On Saturdays and Sundays I ventured into neighborhoods I didn’t know and became an adventurous tourist eager to explore parts of a city I’d never visited before.

I rode there by subway or bus, strolled through streets and parks, poked my head into shops, galleries, houses of worship, and little cafes. Stopping for coffee and a sandwich at a busy diner or a burger and beer in a tavern, I’d strike up a conversation with locals to learn as much as I could about the area. When someone mentioned a special place known mostly to neighborhood folks, I made a beeline there. Back home, along with tired feet, I’d have a whole bunch of photos and a headful of new experiences and stories to share with friends and family.

I never imagined I’d have an opportunity to author a book on these out-of-the-way places, little-known aspects of well-known landmarks, and assorted unusual spots I had discovered on my weekend explorations. But true to the city’s reputation as a place of infinite possibility, I was asked (quite unexpectedly!) to create this book and introduce a world of visitors – as well as my fellow New Yorkers – to 111 not-to-be-missed places that you just don’t find in other travel guides.

I accepted the challenge with great enthusiasm and spent more than a year revisiting some old gems and uncovering many new ones – and photographing a thrilling assortment of truly remarkable must-see destinations. Throughout this process, I’ve had the great good fortune to get acquainted with artists, historians, proprietors, tradespeople, curators, journalists, and adventurous New Yorkers of every description – exceptional women and men who’ve welcomed and enlightened me, often providing valuable insights and inside stories to enrich my experience and add juice to my text.

With reverence and delight, I happily present this, my love letter to New York City.

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1_The Afro Archives

Black gold on Malcolm X Boulevard

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It’s the most prestigious research library in the United States that focuses on African Americans, the African Diaspora, and the African experience, with about ten million items in its several collections. If you expect this venerable institution to be intimidating or stuffy, you’re in for a surprise.

Doors to The Schomburg Center open on a contemporary space. A genial staff is eager to assist – whether you’re a scholar of Harlem Renaissance art, a student writing an essay on Marcus Garvey, a Motown enthusiast, or a curious visitor. Galleries, reading rooms, and research resources are open to all. The more you explore, the more astonished you’ll be at the treasures you have access to.

Info

Address 515 Malcolm X Boulevard (between West 135th and 136th Street), New York 10037, Phone +1 212.491.2200, www.schomburgcenter.org | Public Transport Subway: 135 St (2, 3), Bus: M 1, M 2, M 7, M 102 | Hours Mon 10am‒6pm, Tue‒Thu 10am‒8pm, Fri‒Sat 10am‒6pm, closed Sun| Tip Across the street, Harlem Hospital’s Mural Pavilion displays restored murals historically depicting the life and work of black people. Painted in 1936, they were the first Works Progress Administration (WPA) commission for black artists in the US.

In 1926, the collection of African-American material belonging to black Puerto Rican scholar Arturo Schomburg was donated to a Harlem branch library, and named the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints. As its research reputation grew, other significant local, national, and international African-American collections were added. It was designated one of the NY Public Library’s four main research libraries in 1972, renamed to honor its original donor, and moved to its present site in 1980.

Five remarkable sub-collections – Research & Reference; Manuscript, Archives & Rare Books; Art & Artifacts; Photographs & Prints; and Moving Image & Recorded Sound – enable you to read the original manuscript of Richard Wright’s Native Son, preserved slave diaries, and congressional records. You can view art from Benin to Brooklyn, hear the voice of Malcolm X or Etta James, or read a Kenyan newspaper from your ergonomically-designed reading room chair.

It’s also a vibrant community center. With museum-worthy changing exhibits on thought-provoking (and fun) themes and talks, workshops, performances, screenings, and social gatherings for young and old, Schomburg’s is an uptown goldmine.

Nearby

Artists of Color (0.572 mi)

The Gospel Truth (0.727 mi)

Harriet Tubman’s Skirt (0.814 mi)

Marjorie Eliot’s Sunday Salon (1.324 mi)

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2_The Algonquin Lounge

Legendary literary lair

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For years the lobby lounge of the Algonquin Hotel has been the quintessential spot for a soigné midtown rendezvous. Whatever the hour, lights are low and it’s cocktail time. Despite its spaciousness, the elegant room’s tasteful placement of upholstered settees, armchairs, and softly shaded lamps encourages comfortable, even intimate, conversation. Beneath potted palms and tall mahogany columns, tucked-away corners offer privacy for discreet tête-à-têtes.

Conversation is what the Algonquin is most famous for. In the 1920s it’s where that infamous group of about a dozen sharp-tongued, witty writers and theater people met for lunch every day for nearly a decade to trade ideas, banter, gossip, and generally outdo one another’s clever quips. They called themselves the Vicious Circle. But when a Brooklyn Eagle editorial cartoonist caricatured them clad in suits of armor and redubbed them the Round Table, it stuck. This mutual admiration society was the cream of New York’s literati: critics, columnists, playwrights, and authors, whose charter members included Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott, and New Yorker magazine founder Harold Ross. A colorful mural in the lobby immortalizes the group, and these celebrated ghosts remain in residence to this day.

Info

Address 59 West 44th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas), New York 10036, Phone +1 212.840.6800, www.algonquinhotel.com | Public Transport Subway: 42 St-Bryant Pk (B, D, F, M); Grand Central-42 St (4, 5, 6, S); Times Sq-42 St (1, 2, 3, N, Q, R), Bus: M 1, M 2, M 3, M 4, M 5, M 7, M 20, M 42 | Tip Nearby, same-day discount theater tickets (up to 50% off) for many shows are available at the Times Square TKTS booth.

Though major renovations and updates have been made by various owners since the hotel opened its doors in 1902, the lounge’s unique character endures. Wifi throughout encourages the bon mots of bloggers and tweeters, today’s online quipsters. The location, steps away from Broadway theaters, is a perfect place to meet a companion before a show or nurse a nightcap after. Immerse yourselves in old-world ambiance and sip the signature Algonquin Cocktail: rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and pineapple juice. Order a Dorothy Parker mini-burger from the bar menu — she surely would have had a good laugh at that.

Nearby

The Mossman Collection (0.075 mi)

Gertrude Stein Statue (0.174 mi)

Winnie-the-Pooh (0.193 mi)

Library Way (0.199 mi)

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3_Alice Austen House

Photographic memory

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Wealthy nineteenth-century New Yorkers made their summer homes on Staten Island’s shore. Alice Austen’s house, Clear Comfort, overlooked NY Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and lower Manhattan. She was one of the earliest and most prolific female photographers in the US.

Alice was two in 1868 when her father left and she and her mother moved to this, her grandparents’  home. When she was ten, a sea-captain uncle let her tinker with a camera acquired on his travels. It was a large intricate device with heavy glass plates, but she learned to master it. She took 8,000 pictures in her lifetime. Some were staged, depicting family and friends at play (sailing, yachting, riding) with Alice herself in the frame, shutter-release in hand. Or she’d haul the cumbersome camera onto the ferry to explore Manhattan’s dim corners, documenting lives of the poor, displaced, and diseased.

Info

Address 2 Hylan Boulevard (at Edgewater Street), Staten Island, New York 10305, Phone +1 718.816.4506, www.aliceausten.org, info@aliceausten.org | Public Transport to Staten Island Ferry: Subway: South Ferry (1); Bowling Green (4, 5); Whitehall St-South Ferry (R), Bus: M 5, M 15, M 20; from ferry terminal in Staten Island: Bus: S 51 (to Hylan Boulevard) | Hours Mar.‒Dec. Tue‒Sun 11am–5pm; Jan., Feb. by appointment| Tip Visit a quirky gallery behind the counter at DeLuca General Store on Bay Street, where folk-art lovers go wild over robots, battleships, planes, and rockets Mr. DeLuca made from found objects.

An ace tennis player, cyclist, and the first Staten Island woman to own a car, Alice bucked convention, spent her days in the company of women, and for fifty years lived with her friend Gertrude Tate. When the 1929 stock market crash left her a pauper, she mortgaged the house, sold its contents, and eventually ended up in a county poorhouse. In 1951, 3,000 of her photo plates were found in a storage area of the Staten Island Historical Society, and Alice’s artistry was celebrated. She was transferred to a private nursing home and, before she died, attended a gala reception held in her honor at Clear Comfort.

In recent years her Victorian Gothic cottage was lovingly restored – the parlor is recaptured as it appeared in its heyday, displaying a camera like Alice’s. Hallways are lined with her work. There’s a gallery for contemporary exhibits, a film about her, and a library. Come to picnic on the lawn, attend its cultural programs and activities, and celebrate the art of photography and a woman of independent spirit.

Nearby

Enoteca Maria (2.007 mi)

Green-Wood Cemetery (4.666 mi)

The High Road to a Tibetan Retreat (4.772 mi)

Red Hook Winery (4.853 mi)

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4_Artists of Color

A treasure trove in the heart of Harlem

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An exciting and compelling art museum is smack-dab in the middle of Harlem’s main thoroughfare, the bustling shopping and entertainment concourse that is 125th Street. The Studio Museum in Harlem is a bright, airy, three-story contemporary showplace that thrives on the dynamic energy of this boulevard while providing a refuge from its noise and commotion.

When you visit, thrill to a wonderful display of important art by both established and little-known African-American artists, from the nineteenth century to the present day. The museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibits present an exceptionally diverse assemblage of paintings, photographs, sculpture, textile art, masks, and mixed media. Works by Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence creatively interact with Carrie Mae Weems’ photographs and installations by label-defying new artists. Contrasts and similarities reverberate and the results are stunning.

Info

Address 144 West 125th Street (between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard), New York 10027, Phone +1 212.864.4500, www.studiomuseum.org, info@studiomusuem.org | Public Transport Subway: 125 St (A, B, C, D, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), Bus: M 1, M 2, M 3, M 7, M 10, M 60, M 100, M 101, M 102 | Hours Thu‒Fri noon‒9pm, Sat 10am‒6pm, Sun noon‒6pm| Tip Blackened catfish is a crowd-pleaser at celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem on Malcolm X Boulevard.

At first, everything in the gallery looks beautiful. As you take a closer look, powerful themes of the American black experience emerge. You’ll discover works that expose, prod, and often break boundaries of race, color, and gender. Other examples portray historical narratives or current hot-button issues.

Art’s power to transform is central to the museum’s philosophy. Founded in 1968, the Studio Museum was the first institution in the US dedicated entirely to artists of African descent. Its founders’ desire to make this cultural experience accessible to the community was fulfilled in 1977 when it relocated from a rented loft to its present street-level location.

For over forty years, the artist-in-residence program has provided studio space to foster the careers of emerging talents. Innovative educational programs for schoolchildren and teachers, lectures, discussions, and performances bring art to life for Harlem neighbors as well as visitors from communities around the world.

Nearby

Harriet Tubman’s Skirt (0.342 mi)

The Afro Archives (0.572 mi)

Duke Ellington Stands Tall (0.814 mi)

The Gospel Truth (1.106 mi)

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To the beginning of the chapter

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5_B&H Dairy Restaurant

Comfort food from the old country

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Lower Second Avenue was once known as the Yiddish Broadway, a vibrant entertainment hub for crowds of Eastern European Jewish immigrants living in tenements and brownstones in what is today’s East Village. Theaters and vaudeville houses lined the bustling sidewalks alongside restaurants featuring huge servings of traditional dishes, tastes of the ‘old country,’ just like bubbe (grandma) used to make. Kosher dietary law prohibits combining meat and milk products, so some eateries served meals containing meat while others, like B&H, offered meatless dishes familiarly called ‘dairy.’

Time-worn and tiny, its aisle is so narrow between the counter stools and six small tables that even skinny-minnies making their way to a rear table risk jostling somebody’s pierogies. Original owner Abie Bergson (the B of B&H) had no desire to expand the cramped dining area, insisting it was far better to have customers waiting for tables than tables waiting for customers. Staying small may be one reason why it’s been going strong since 1938, while larger rivals (like Ratner’s and Rappaport’s) have since closed their doors.

Info

Address 127 Second Avenue (between East 7th Street and St Marks Place), New York 10003, Phone +1 212.505.8065 | Public Transport Subway: Astor Pl (6); 8 St-NYU (N, R), Bus: M 1, M 2, M 3, M 8, M 15, M 101, M 102, M 103 | Hours Sun‒Thu 7am‒11pm, Fri‒Sat 7am‒midnight| Tip Jewish old-world bakery treats like babka, rugelach, and fruit-filled hamantaschen fill the shelves nearby at Moishe’s Bake Shop.

The staff is mainly Hispanic now, yet old-timers claim the menu of Jewish soul food hasn’t changed since opening day. Heaping plates (‘Is all of this for me?’) of blintzes, latkes, kashavarnishkas, and bowls of lentil, split pea, hot or cold borscht, and veggie matzoball soup come with house-baked buttered challah bread – the basis for what many deem NY’s best French toast and grilled cheese sandwiches. Sip an egg cream or fresh-pressed fruit juice. Signs on the wall list menu items, daily soups and specials – and all at surprisingly gentle prices.

Over the years, B&H has fed hungry actors, beatniks, hippies, hipsters, college kids, and hard-core regulars. If you’re lucky, you’ll be elbow-to-elbow at the counter with an octogenarian who’ll bend your ear about great food and the good old days.

Nearby

Merchant’s House (0.217 mi)

The Russian-Turkish Baths (0.242 mi)

PDT Speakeasy (0.249 mi)

Urban Squats and Gardens (0.292 mi)

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To the beginning of the chapter

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6_The Back Room

Tabooze in a teacup

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This could be the only bar whose bouncer directs you to the door. “The Back Room? … down here!” He points to a metal gate with a Lower East Side Toy Company sign. Stairs take you down to a grim-looking alley. Rusty iron steps at the far end lead to a closed door. Be brave, go inside. It’s dimly lit but sparkly. Smiling, attractive people cluster and dance beside a roaring-twenties mirrored bar running along the front wall. Paintings of saucy ladies leer provocatively from the sidelines. Up some carpeted steps, a posh lounge oozes with period decor – red velvet settees, cocktail tables, and objets d’art elegantly arranged in the warm glow of a fireplace and twinkling chandeliers. With a nod to the days when booze was outlawed and consumed in secret, the Back Room’s potent cocktails are served ‘disguised’ in teacups, bottle beer in brown paper bags, drafts in coffee mugs, and shots in espresso cups.

Various trendy bars in the city pretend to be speakeasies. But this tucked-away night spot is the real deal – an authentic, clandestine drinking lounge that flourished during Prohibition. Back then you entered through the rear door of Ratner’s, a famous Lower East Side dairy restaurant. Open round the clock, Ratner’s blintzes and fresh-baked onion rolls drew all-night crowds that included Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, and Groucho Marx, along with notorious gangsters like Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, and Meyer Lansky. After eating kosher delicacies they’d sneak into the back room for booze. Celebrities are still spotted here. Pearl Jam presided over the club’s 2005 reopening party; star-power patrons reserve bottle-service-only tables or throw lavish parties in its hidden Back Of The Back Room room.

Info

Address 102 Norfolk Street (between Delancey and Rivington Street), New York 10002, Phone +1 212.228.5098, www.backroomnyc.com, info@backroomnyc.com | Public Transport Subway: Essex St (J, M, Z); Delancey St (F); Grand St (B, D), Bus: M 9, M 14, M 15, M 21 | Hours Sun‒Mon 7:30pm‒2am, Tue‒Thu 7:30pm‒3am, Fri‒Sat 7:30pm‒4am| Tip If you work up a hunger dancing, Schiller’s on Rivington serves late suppers until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Toast the twenties into the wee hours. Weekends are wild. Live jazz at Lucky’s Lounge Mondays requires a password at the door, and Poetry Brothels on the last Sunday of the month defy polite description.

Nearby

Essex Street Market (0.05 mi)

Hua Mei Birds (0.304 mi)

Nuyorican Poets Cafe (0.348 mi)

The Slave Galleries (0.391 mi)

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To the beginning of the chapter

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7_The Batman-Poe Connection

Partners in crime?

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Edgar Allan Poe was a master of the modern detective story. Batman is a master sleuth. It may sound crazy to suggest a link between a nineteenth-century literary giant and a twentieth-century comics superhero, but there’s a park on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse where these two ‘lives’ actually do intersect.

In 1846, hoping the fresh air of the then-rural Bronx would prove beneficial to his tubercular wife Virginia, Poe rented a small wood-frame cottage for $100/year and moved there with her and her mother. After a year of living humbly but happily, Virginia died. Poe remained there (writing The Bells and Annabel Lee in one of the rooms) until his death in 1849.

Info

Address Poe Cottage: 194th Street and Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, New York 10458; Poe Park Visitor Center: 2640 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York 10458, Phone +1 718.365.5516 | Public Transport Subway: Kingsbridge Rd (B, D, 4), Bus: BX 1, BX 2, BX 9, BX 12, BX 22, BX 28, BX 32, BX 34 | Hours Poe Park: daily 7am‒10pm; Visitor Center: Tue‒Sat 8am‒4pm; Poe Cottage: Thu‒Fri 10am‒3pm, Sat 10am‒4pm, Sun 1pm‒5pm| Tip As a boy, director Stanley Kubrick lived nearby and thrilled to movies at palatial Loew’s Paradise Theater (188th Street & Grand Concourse).

Over the years, the Grand Concourse became a busy residential boulevard. In 1913, tiny Poe Cottage was relocated to a park across the street, later named in the poet’s honor. Docents provide guided tours through the cozy house. Sparsely furnished, some original pieces remain – like a scuffed mirror and the bed where his beloved Virginia died. A Visitor Center was built, its design echoing the wingspan of a raven (after Poe’s most famous poem), with roof tiles resembling dark feathers. Poe’s fans come from all over the world to see where he lived and wrote, while locals take their kids to the playground and attend seasonal events at the 1925-vintage bandstand.

A little-known factoid is what unites our two heroes: in 1939, neighborhood pals Bob Kane and Bill Finger sat on a Poe Park bench and hatched the idea for Batman. They met here regularly to brainstorm details of the new comic strip, trying to rival the recent success of Superman. Together they dreamed up costumes and storylines for Batman, his sidekick Robin, and their diabolical arch-villains. It’s no riddle, then, why many of the caped crusader’s thrilling escapades were inspired by tales penned by Edgar Allan Poe.

Nearby

Hall of Fame for Great Americans (0.994 mi)

The Dyckman Farmhouse (1.485 mi)

Wave Hill (2.336 mi)

Morris-Jumel Mansion (3.107 mi)

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To the beginning of the chapter

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8_Berlin Wall Remnants

The art of freedom

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For more than twenty years, an imposing 12-foot-high and 20-foot-long section of the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall stood outdoors (shown opposite) flanked by vertical waterfalls in a compact urban space called a “pocket park.” Relaxing among the sitting areas tucked in between towering office buildings, workers who spent their lunch breaks there hardly took notice of the colorful monoliths. In 2015, following an extensive conservation and restoration project to preserve these stunning witnesses to history, they were relocated just steps away, inside the elegant marble-clad 53rd Street entrance lobby of 520 Madison Avenue.

The striking images on display were painted between 1984 and 1985 by Thierry Noir, an artist who lived in an apartment along the Waldemarstrasse in Berlin Kreuzberg, adjacent to a section of the Berlin Wall. With the assistance of fellow artists Christophe Bouchet, Kiddy Citny, and other revolutionary friends, Noir sought to use paint to transform the imposing, fearsome wall into colorful cartoon-like images, to render it less threatening and, ultimately, to help destroy it. By the time the wall came down in 1989, they had painted a length of nearly five kilometers on the West Berlin side of the wall. Their vivid and provocative images came to symbolize liberation and freedom throughout Germany.

Info

Address 520 Madison Avenue (East 53rd Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue), New York 10022 | Public Transport Subway: 5 Av-53 St (E, M); 51 St (6), Bus: M 1, M 2, M 3, M 4, M 50, M 101, M 103 | Hours Daily 24 hours| Tip Other Berlin Wall segments in NYC: at the entrance of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum; between Gateway Plaza and World Financial Center; in the garden area of United Nations headquarters.

In 1990, when pieces of the wall were sold at auction in Europe, Jerry Speyer, president of the American real estate company Tishman Speyer, purchased these five remnants and arranged to have them brought to New York. Speyer celebrated the demise of communism in Germany by situating his treasured portion of the Berlin Wall in the home of American capitalism. In a rather interesting sidelight, German director Wim Wenders’ iconic film, Wings of Desire, features a scene in which Thierry Noir is painting these exact images of freedom on the wall.

Nearby

Paley Center for Media (0.149 mi)

Eddie’s Shoeshine & Repair (0.199 mi)

Nevelson’s Chapel of Tranquility (0.267 mi)

The Drag Show at Lips (0.435 mi)

To the online map

To the beginning of the chapter

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9_Bloomingdale’s Retro Restroom

Powder your nose in a Deco ladies’ lounge

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When you’re on the go and need to go