New York Spring

The Spring plantings in the median of Park Avenue are in full bloom. There are white tulips and black ones, red and yellow ones, and other nice plants everywhere, and the warming weather is upon us. It was a long, cold winter, and hardship for many. A recent report said that Bronx County is the hungriest county in America, and Brooklyn is close behind. There are lovely plantings there, too; but most of them are in the wealthier areas of course.

The ladies are out in full bloom too. As Nature would have it, they look on an old man with a camera with a certain amount of suspicion, with good reason; we appreciate them more as we age and wither. They know it, and it disgusts them to know they are attractive to us too.

A commercial mural about something I don't understand being installed professionally at the corner of Houston and Bowery. Nearly everyone in the crowd was taking pictures, so I stopped my cab and snapped a few too.

Lately I realized I hardly ever look up at the tall buildings. Most of us see the street scene and skyscrapers are so taken for granted we hardly notice them except as background. There's a lot going on up there. I find myself fascinated by the exceptionally complicated polygons of angled grids glass and reflections composing these scenes. John Lennon's Steel & Glass comes to mind...

The buildings of Park Avenue South (the poor end) seen from the Park Avenue Bridge at Grand Central Station. The speed tunnel has been changed to one-way North. The narrow tunnel suffered too many collisions. It is impossible to make the light at 40th St. without excessive speed though. Ask a professional taxi driver.

The Park Avenue Building is one of the jewels in the crown of New York's swankiest street. Behind it looms the Met Life Building (one of them) cloaked in the mist of a rainy day. Every time I drive around these buildings and Grand Central Station, I remember that we would have lost Grand Central when powerful real estate groups sought to tear it down and build another modern atrocity. It would have happened, had not Jackie Kennedy Onassis assumed the chair of The Committee to Save Grand Central Station. After all, her great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt built Grand Central Station. Tearing it down would have been a mistake worse than the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station, an architectural masterpiece, replaced by the banality of the present Penn Station. Older New Yorkers who remember Penn Station still shake their heads in wonderment at the stupidity of the men who tore it down. Right on, Jackie-O.

Interior shots of the original Pennsylvania Station. Sunlight poured in, eliminating the need for much electricity in the days when electricity was an adolescent.

It was a kinder and gentler skyline if you ask me (nobody does.) Manhattan may have been poorer, but it had a human scale altogether lacking in today's imperial building boom. You could see practically the whole island from a five-story building.

The still-magnificent Flatiron Building at the junction of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd St. The first modern building constructed with structural steel, it's triangular shape convinced New Yorkers it was unstable, and for a long time people walked with tredpidation in its vicinity, thinking a wind might push it over.


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