Tuesday, November 03, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, Chapter 3:  
IN WHICH FERRIS BUELLER TAKES THE DAY OFF

We left the hotel just after 9 a.m. and went around the corner to catch the R train to Whitehall station.  Walking along the battery, we passed the Staten Island ferry and Liberty ferry on our way to Castle Clinton with its collection of exhibits relating the fort's history.
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Castle Clinton
The sandstone fort was built in 1811 as one of five forts erected to defend New York Harbor.  The fort originally stood on a small island that was linked to Manhattan by a 200-ft wooden causeway and drawbridge.  In the 1850s, landfill extended Battery Park to this point.
     
The D-shaped fort held 28 cannons, but never saw military action.  In 1823, the U.S. Army gave Castle Clinton to New York City, which used the structure for a variety of purposes over the next century.  After its designation as a National Monument in 1946, Castle Clinton was restored to its original appearance as a stone fort, and now serves as a National Park Service visitor center. 
    
Cool Globes
From Castle Clinton, we walked to Pier A and saw the Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet public art installation.  The brain-child of founder Wendy Abrams, Cool Globes is her way of capturing the public’s attention to the complex problems that face our planet today. Begun as a Clinton Global Initiative commitment in 2005, this non-profit organization first premiered in Chicago before moving across the country. In 2009, Cool Globes began its International tour in Copenhagen. This month, in sync with Climate Week, Cool Globes arrived in Battery Park City.
   
While the Chicago exhibit featured more than 125 globes, the current installation at Pier A in Battery Park City consists of twelve. Each of the globes is five feet in diameter and carries a message on the accompanying pedestal. The globes have been designed by a variety of people. Not just artists, but musicians, actors, athletes and even elected officials. They are divided into categories with thirty of the overall globes titled “Voices”, whereby prominent individuals lend their voice to this project, and thirty titled Solutions,” highlighting simple ideas that we all can adopt.
    
Trinity Church
Continuing north, we stopped at the magnificent Trinity Church, a historic Episcopal congregation at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street.  First established in 1696, Trinity is now in its third building, erected from 1839 to 1846.  It was the tallest building in the United States until 1869, as well as the tallest in New York City until 1890.
   
Trinity interior
Located just a block from the New York Stock Exchange, Trinity played a significant role during the American Revolution and in the lives of the colonists who would go on to found this country.  George Washington attended a service at Trinity after his first inauguration at nearby Federal Hall, and Alexander Hamilton is buried in the church's graveyard.
   
Federal Hall is dwarfed by the surrounding high-rise buildings.
From Trinity, we walked the short distance to Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street.  The name originally referred to a federal style building on the same site completed in 1703 as City Hall.  The current Greek revival style building, designed as a Custom House, was completed in 1842.  Today it is operated by the National Park Service as Federal Hall Memorial in recognition of the spot where George Washington took the oath as president for the first time in United States history.
    
A 1790 engraving depicting Washington's 1789 inauguration at the original Federal Hall
From Federal Hall, we continued east on Wall Street to the corner of Water Street, where we caught the M15 bus north to the corner of Madison and Catherine at the entrance to Chinatown.  Oddly, we were there to visit a historic New York synagogue.
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Eldridge Street Synagogue
Now a national historic landmark, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1887 before European Jews moved out and an immigrant community from China moved into the neighborhood.  It was the first great house of worship built in America by Eastern European Jews.  A small group continues to worship there weekly.  

Between 1881 and 1924, more than 2.5 million Jews from Eastern Europe immigrated to the U.S.  Nearly 80% settled on New York’s Lower East Side.  The Eldridge Street Synagogus’s grand design and obvious religious symbols proudly announced the Jewish presence in this immigrant neighborhood.  For many immigrants, it was the first time they were able to worship freely and openly.
      
Eldridge Street Synagogue interior
By the 1950s the congregation had shrunk, and Jews moved away from the Lower East Side.  Eventually it became too expensive for the much smaller congregation to maintain the physical building and it fell into severe disrepair, on the verge of collapse.  
     
In 1986, a project was initiated to restore the synagogue building and open it to the public.  Twenty years later, the massive restoration was completed.  The synagogue’s design combines many styles including Gothic, Moorish, and Romanesque.  
   
The museum is housed in an old tenement building closed to residents in 1935.
After a brief lunch break, we checked out the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street, which memorializes the historic living conditions of immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Tours are offered of recreated homes and businesses inside the museum's two restored historic tenement buildings.
     
As close as we were permitted to get to New York city hall
In search of a letterbox, we made our way to New York's City Hall.  When we asked an NYPD guard about visiting city hall, he said it was closed to the public.  Only those with official business can enter City Hall park. That just seemed wrong for what is by definition a public building belonging to the citizens of New York.
   
Ready for some rest, we took the R train north to 49th Street and stopped by the Times Square TKTS booth on the way back to our room at the Doubletree.  After a rest, we went out and had a mediocre dinner at a restaurant near the hotel before walking over to the Cort Theatre for the evening performance of Sylvia.
     
Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford in Sylvia
On the surface, the play is about Greg, a married man in Manhattan who bonds with a stray dog in Central Park who has a tag around her neck saying Sylvia.  He takes her home, much to the consternation of his wife.  As Greg, Matthew Broderick's performance was dull and wooden.  His tone, pace, volume and intonation defined monotony.  He seemed to have no connection with other actors or his devoted fans.  In contrast, Annaleigh Ashford, who played Sylvia, was convincing as the canine, dashing about in fanciful doggy-like couture, and spouting a constant impulsive stream-of-consciousness dialogue.  She hilariously sniffs strangers' crotches and butt-scoots across the carpet.  And for us, she saved the production.  Our accolades definitely went to the "dog."
     
TUESDAY, 3 NOVEMBER 2015