Revival! Hallelujah Halloween 2013!

You can see other pictures of 2013 parade here, on the other page of my blog.
This year marks the 40th Annual New York’s Village Halloween Parade. The Parade is the largest celebration of its kind in the world and has been picked by Festivals International as “The Best Event in the World” for October 31. The parade is listed in the book, 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss.

Parade is open to anyone in a costume who wishes to march. It is the largest public Halloween event in the United States, and the country's only major night parade.
 Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became transparent that allowed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth and made the prediction about the future easier for the Druids (Celtic priests). 

 Druids built huge bonfires and wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins. In the beginning of the 1-st century Romans conquered Celtic land. In the 8th century All Martyrs Day, that was established in the Western church a century before, moved to 1-st of November. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. 

The first Halloween parade was started by the New York mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee in Greenwich Village in the courtyard of the Westbeth Artists Community. 
 Ralph Lee has created masks and puppets for major theater and dance companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York City Ballet and a teacher at Bennington College. 

The idea was to create a mile-long theatrical event of masked performers, giant puppets and musicians. Lee had over 100 masks and giant puppets, all of which were used in the first parade. His colleagues, friends and family took part in the first parade. Due to its popularity, the parade was staged again in 1975. 

After the 8th year, when the crowd had reached the size of 100,000 Celebration Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, a long-time participant in the Parade took over the event. 
Jeanne organized the Official Land Celebration for the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, one year after she became the artistic director of New York's Village Halloween Parade.

 The Proclamation, issued by the Mayor of the City of New York in 1994, concludes: “New York is the world’s capital of creativity and entertainment. The Village Halloween Parade presents the single greatest opportunity for all New Yorkers to exhibit their creativity in an event that is one-of-a-kind, unique and memorable every year. New Yorkers of all ages love Halloween, and this delightful event enables them to enjoy it every year and join in with their own special contributions. The Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is a true cultural treasure.” 

 In that same statement, the Mayor declared the week of October 24-31 to “HALLOWEEK in NYC in perpetuity.” 

 Seven weeks after the tragic events of 9/11 Mayor Rudolf Giuliani insisted that the Parade take place stating that it would be a healing event for New York. 
 In 2012 Super Storm Sandy forced an unprecedented cancellation of the Parade. 
 Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday. 

160 years of Steinway. Part 1

Steinway Hall, West 57 st.
Steinway has been in business for 160 years. Its pianos have been a status symbol and a must-have luxury in concert halls for more than a century. Since opening in 1925, Steinway Hall  West 57th Street in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It is a landmark destination. Such famous names as Franz Liszt, Vladimir Horiwitz,  Sergei Rachmaninoff, Van Cliburn, and George Gershwin chose the Steinway piano as their performance instrument.  
 160 years ago in 1853 the German emigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg ( later he changed his name to  Henry Steinway)  founded a company.  Henry made his first square piano ( a piano that has horizontal strings arranged diagonally across the rectangular case)  in 1835 and presented it as a gift to his  bride. The excellent example of the square piano, made in 1866,  can be found in  Pleshakov Piano Museum, opened in Hunter, Catskill in August of 2007.  
Square piano

Kitchen Piano in Met Museum

In 1836 he built his first grand piano in his kitchen. This piano was later named the "kitchen piano", and is now on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art .  

Over the next thirty years, Henry and his sons developed the modern piano   utilizing acoustical theories of the well known physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.
In 1862 the company gained the first prize in London and   in 1867 at the Universal exposition in Paris.

The company started out with a small shop on Varick Street in Tribeca,New York  but by the 1860s had grown to a huge block wide factory on Park Avenue, and 53rd St. where the Seagram Building stands today. The first piano produced by the company was sold to a New York family for $500. The Steinway factory remained in Manhattan until 1910, when it relocated to Astoria. 
Steinway factory in Queens

Steinway factory in Queens
In 1870, William Steinway ( Henry’s fourth son)  bought 400 acres of land in the northern Astoria section of Queens, New York and established a community for its workers called the Steinway Village,  with its own  foundries, factory, post office, parks and housing for employees.  It was the place where workers could own brick homes, drink fresh water, and stroll under shade trees on Steinway Avenue—still the main road in this part of Queens. 

The Steinway Library, started with books from William’s own collection, is now a branch of the Queens Library.  A public school (one of the first free kindergartens in the country), a fire house, and a post office were also built at that time.  

Steinway Mansion in Queens

During the 1890s, William Steinway began a project to extend his company town's horse-drawn trolley line under the East River  and into midtown Manhattan. 

The tunnels that were dug under the East River were named the Steinway Tunnels after him. Train 7 to Flushing (Queens) uses thus tunnel. 

In 1871, William purchased the Steinway Mansion in Queens. The house was recently put up for sale for $3.5 million in 2011.The house is  the  market now for $2.9.

Handcrafting each Steinway piano requires up to one full year. Each piano requires several kinds of lumber, writes Miles Chapin, a great-great grandson of the founder Henry Steinway, in his book “88 Keys: The Making of a Steinway Piano”: birch for the hammers, sugar maple for the rim, and Sitka spruce for the soundboard, among other varieties.  The harp, which weighs three hundred and forty pounds, must sustain the forty thousand pounds of tension necessary to keep the strings in tune.
Steinway factory
You can go on a free factory tour (once a week on a Tuesday,  from September through the end of June)  where the company's famous Steinway pianos are built by hand by skilled artisans.  
In 1881, Steinway manufactured more than 2,600 pianos and William  became a millionaire, one of 400 in New York. 

But Steinway factory produced not only pianos! 125 years ago on 29 September 1888,  just two years after the first modern automobile had been invented, Steinway entered into agreement with G. Daimler of Mercedes to manufacture parts for the American Mercedes Automobile and the engines as well as marine engines.  The site of the Steinway piano factory in Queens  offered enough space for the production of Daimler engines. Daimler became the first European car manufacturer in the United States of America.
William Steinway had ambitious plans for the motorization of the United States. He  said:  “The cars which we intend to produce for the American market will be capable of carrying between two and four people and will be driven by engines with between 2 ½ and 3 ½ hp. The fuel – petroleum – costs about one cent per hp. and hour, making the automobile considerably less expensive than horse power.”
After Steinway's early death in 1896  his heirs sold all their shares to the General Electric Company.

If  you'd like to know what happened next with the company- wait for my next post!

Sandy: one year after

Tuesday,  October 29, will mark exactly one year after Superstorm Sandy made a landfall.  set several records. It  At $65 billion, Sandy was the second costliest storm in US history and  the second tropical system starting with an "S" ( among other 76 names) to have its name retired. The name of the storm is retired if  it is felt that a storm is so deadly or damaging that the future use of its name would be inappropriate. By the way,  the name   Irene ( hurricane Irene made a landfall exactly at the same town  in New Jersey a   year before Sandy)   was also retired.

Sandy  was the first time in modern recorded history that a storm took a sharp turn to the west and hit. Sandy set historical maximum recorded water levels  (13.88 ft. -  4.2 meters)  at the Battery Park  in Downtown, New York. A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and amplified Sandy's storm surge. The East River overflowed its banks, flooding large sections of Lower Manhattan.
More than 12,000 flights were canceled, there was no trading for two days on Wall Street as a result of the storm damage. The last time the New York Stock Exchange closed for two consecutive days for weather-related reasons was 1888.
The Greenwich Village Halloween parade was postponed for the first time in the parade’s 39-year-history.
 This year  is the  40th Anniversary Parade, Hallelujah Halloween revival.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that the destruction caused by the storm was the worst disaster in the 108-year history of the New York City subway system.
Nine of the city's 14 underwater tunnels were damaged by flooding, and necessary repairs could force closures for years to come. The worst hit tunnels, on the R and G lines, are still  under repair. Other tunnels, particularly in lower Manhattan, will also face shutdowns in the future to fix salt water contamination and corroded equipment.
It was clear for years that the New York City subways were dangerously vulnerable to hurricane flooding.  Waterproofing was never undertaken.
Since Hurricane Sandy hit, the MTA has been studying how other cities, like Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, protect their subway systems from flooding.  Solutions could include flood gates, slate-and-frame removable barriers, and water-tight flood doors at subway entrances.
The temporary weekday ferry service between the Rockaway and Lower Manhattan was open with a stop in Sunset Park to help commuters. The service  will continue to operate through January 31, 2014. Free parking is available on the ferry pier at Brooklyn Army Terminal, located at 58th Street and 1st Avenue and the price is $2.
There will be no charge for two subway lines( A and R trains)  on Sandy anniversary  on Tuesday, October 29.

The devastation and damage from Hurricane Sandy was not limited to homes ,properties  and transportation systems. Many trees (especially pines and sycamores )   were damaged due to salt water in the air being blown far inland.  The city lost 20,000 trees to Sandy. When plant roots absorb the chloride in salt, the damage is transported to the leaves, where it accumulates in toxic levels. Plants that suffer saltwater inundation basically die of dehydration as the salt in the soil absorbs all moisture.

The city recently announced it will cut down 2,000 damaged trees this fall to prevent possible future incidents in the areas affected worst by Sandy, including Staten Island, Coney Island, Rockaway, Red Hook, and lower Manhattan.

On October 29, 2013  the Museum of the City of New York will open a major photography exhibition featuring images taken by both professionals and everyday New Yorkers who captured the moments   during the storm and its aftermath.  The exhibition, Rising Waters: Photographs from Hurricane Sandy draws on work submitted by over  a thousand  photographers, many of whom were personally and profoundly impacted by the storm.  

I live less a mile from the beach. We had a basement full of water and more than one feet of the salty dirty water in the first floor.  Our car was damaged by Sandy( total loss )  among  the quarter of a million new and used cars and trucks.   Fortunately I was not in the city that week.  I did not send my pictures anywhere , I just publish  some of them now.


The story of the Three Bears

Central Park sculpture

Once upon a time there was a little girl… I think that you know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears from the early childhood.  But do you know that we have “Three bears” sculptures here in New York?  And not only one but three of them less than a mile apart,   done by the same sculptor. The first sculpture is on the kids playground in the Central Park  at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, and the second one is on the first floor of the Metropolitan museum of art.


These sculptures were done by American artist  Paul Manship, mostly known as the author of the Prometheus  in Rockefeller center.  I wrote about  Prometheus in one of my posts in April 2013.

Although Manship was not an animal sculptor, he had gained his Prix de Rome with a relief of horses, and he loved to include birds and animals in his pieces.

The sculpture at Met Museum
In 1926 sculptor was commissioned to build the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway at the Bronx Zoo in New York.  The double gates were thirty-four feet high  and very expensive  to create. It took almost fifteen years to complete the project.  There are three bears above the left gate done by Manship.  The artist modeled all three animals from careful life study of one of the zoo’s bears. 
When the gates were completed, the sculptor  issued independent casts of this assemblage to recoup some of the gateway’s enormous costs. Manship maintained the poses of the animals but adjusted them from a profile to a frontal composition.
 Bronx Zoo Gates
The sculpture on the gate at the playground

The sculpture from the Metropolitan museum was  cast in Milan and stand outside sculpture’s  house in Lanesville, Massasuchets.  

In 1987   the Graham Gallery bought the sculpture. Later "The group of Bears" was  purchased by the donors  Richard and Sheila Swartz for Met museum.
The  bronze sculpture at the  playground was cast in 1960 and unveiled on October 11. It was a gift  from a Samuel N. Friedman in memory of his wife, Pat.
There is a third sculpture of the three bears, much smaller, on the top of the gates  to another playground.  The gates were created by  Paul Manship.  The Municipal Art Society declared the gates the year’s most distinguished work of art in New York City upon their 1953 installation.

Three bears in Washington

The gates were on another  playground that was closed   in the early 1970s to make way for the museum’s expansion of the Egyptian wing (now the site of the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur).  After more than 30 years in storage the gates were restored and installed  in Central Park, at 86 street.   

And there is a forth sculpture of the same bears in  Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington.

Rodin Studios

Rodin Studios

Rodin Studios building at 200 West 57th Street, at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue  across from Carnegie Hall was built in 1917 by Cass Gilbert , a prominent  American architect, mostly know  as an architect of  Woolworth Building.  The studios were designed especially for the artists and it could explain the name - prominent French sculptor Auguste Rodin  died in 1917.  
Rodin Museum in Philadelphia

Rodin  is best known for "The Thinker”,  that was originally named "The Poet" as a depiction of Dante Alighieri in front of the Gates of Hell. There is a Rodin museum in Philadelphia with the largest collection of Rodin's works outside Paris. 

It is  hard to find  affordable   space  with a good light anywhere in NYC.   Rodin studios is one  of these buildings.

At the early days of  the XX century  several artists  organized together into a company  and built a house for themselves and  for other  artists. The three key artists behind the construction were painters who had received training or taught in France, and who were influenced by French art.  

The different street facades of the Rodin Studious  show that apartments and studious  are  very different. There are traditional apartment that can be found in any building and double-height studios.  

The street level was reserved for retail stores and the second and portions of the third floor were leased as business offices, affording extra income for the cooperative. 
On July 15, 1917 The Sun reported that “The suites are appealing to artists because of the large studios which front on Fifty-seventh street, thereby securing the north light.  These studios are from 21.6 feet to 25 feet wide and are 29 and 30 feet long.  Then there are upper studios or balconies off which are the sleeping chambers and other compartments.”  The newspaper added that “The house is so planned that it is possible for a renter to get almost any amount of space desired and arranged to his satisfaction.”

A well known artist Boris Anisfeld   lived in Rodin apartments the 1920’s.  Anisfeld was  born in Bieltsy, in the Russian province of Bessarabia.    In  Russia he worked with the Vsevolod Meyerhold and Sergej Diaghilev. He exhibited in Paris along with Larianov, Gontcharova, Serov, Vrubel and others. 

Anisfeld arrived in New York in 1918 with a  recommendation letter  from V. D. Nabokov   and had an exhibition   at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.   
Boris Anisfeld, Trinity Church,NY 1925

Within weeks of his arrival in New York he began working on set designs for the Metropolitan Opera. This allowed Anisfeld and his family to live comfortably in New York, while his paintings continued to find eager buyers. By the end of the 1920’s   Anisfeld accepted  the  offer of a teaching position at the Art Institute of Chicago and moved there. He remained there until he retired in 1958.

American writer Theodore Dreiser lived in  Rodin Studios. He moved there in 1927, when he was already a celebrity, with his wife and they had their  Thursday evening receptions in the duplex they rented.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Rodin Studios a landmark in 1988

In 2006-2007, the building owners initiated a full restoration at a cost of more than $2 million.  Nicholson & Galloway was hired in 2006  to  perform a full exterior façade restoration. The firm  completely removed the existing  linear feet terra cotta cornice and replaced it with new structural steel and new Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete units.   Three corners of building were reconstructed with new terra cotta brick units and reinforced steel.  Approximately 400 pieces of failed terra cotta were replaced with new matching cast stone units. In 2007 the building  was  sold to The Feil Organization for $125,735,000 million.

Read more: 

Interwoven Globe in Metropolitan Museum

Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800,” opened in    September at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
The show   runs through January 5, 2014.  The exhibition   is an  amazing overview of more than three centuries of art, commerce, and craft .

Trade textiles   were produced by one culture to be sold to another.  According to a description for the exhibit from the Met’s website, “Beginning in the sixteenth century, the golden age of European exploration in search of spice routes to the east brought about the flowering of an abundant textile trade. Textiles often acted as direct currency for spices, as well as other luxury goods. Textiles and textile designs made their way throughout the globe, from India and Asia to Europe, between India and Asia and Southeast Asia, from Europe to the east, and eventually west to the American colonies.”

The items on display show how trade between different cultures and countries inspired and changed the way cloth was produced and designed, from the techniques and materials used to the designs and colors found decorating the cloth.

The designs on European-made textiles often served as models for Chinese and Indian artists, and the combination of Asian and European motifs resulted in novel designs that were especially popular in the West.

By the end of the seventeenth century, objects imported through the well-established maritime trade routes between Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas served as conduits of information about the cultures that produced them. Textiles that moved around the globe stimulated an intense interest in what was deemed "exotic."
Images of fantastic flora, fauna, architecture, and people show how Europeans imagined China, India, and Turkey. The resulting designs and artworks demonstrate a shared curiosity between East and West.  In the eighteenth century, laws protecting the English textile industry prohibited residents of the British Isles from purchasing the Chinese silks and Indian cottons imported by the English East India Company.

These exotic textiles could, however, be legally re-exported to other regions.   Ironically, the English had to dress in domestically produced imitations of Asian textiles, but colonists New York could have the real thing.  After the Louisiana purchase of 1803 the demand for imported Indian chintzes and muslins drastically decreased.
The exhibition is organized by geography and theme in nine galleries. There are quilts and bedcovers, tapestries and wall hangings, shawls and capes, kimonos and vestments, jackets and lavish ball gowns made of imported silks. Most of the textiles are from the Met’s collection but have been exhibited rarely, if at all.
Indian palampore
There are about 130 textiles and nearly 30 garments in the exhibition.   It is a real cross- culture experience and New York is the best place to have this show. You can find exhibition catalogue on Amazon, where you can also enjoy free shipping on it.
Hohloma(Russian Folk art)
What I found amazing is that the type of design that you can see on the eighteen century  Indian bed cover (palampore)   you can find  all over the globe, even on the  hohloma  from Russia and the embroideries from Ukraine.

This type of dyed cloth  was made in abundance in India for the European market in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Ukraine folk art picture
 The size of the palampores conformed to bed sizes in Europe, and their decoration, often with a central tree laden with fruits and birds, combined elements from English embroideries, Chinese decorative objects, and Indian textiles.

"NewYorker"  said about this exhibition : "The show is more than a landmark in the study of decorative arts—it’s a model of how museums can deploy their collections in context"

The exhibition catalog for Interwoven Globe  is  a fantastic book for anyone interested in the history of all varieties of textiles. You can buy the  book through Amazon with free shipping.

New York Diamond District, Part 2

Diamonds are sold on diamond exchanges called bourses. There are 28 registered diamond bourses in the world.  The World Federation of Diamond Bourses  (WFDB) was founded in 1947 and united all diamond exchanges under  roof. 

New York bursa is named DIAMOND DEALERS CLUB (DDC). DDC was found in 1931 when a group of   diamond dealers gathered together in an office in lower Manhattan, where at the time New York’s diamond business was centered.  

According to New York legend, a diamond was dropped and apparently lost, when two diamond dealers were examining it.  Later missing diamond stone fell from a pants cuff of one of the dealers. At that point, it is told, he concluded that American diamond dealers should follow the initiative of their European colleagues and organize a secure facility in which to conduct business. In 1993 DDC moved  its offices and trading platform to  580 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 5th avenue and 47 street.
The first building had 11 floors and was built in 1925.  In 1929 famed architects of their era, Warren & Wetmore ( they built Grand Central Station)    were hired by the owner   to design a 33-story Art Deco building, to be known as the Empire Trust Building. 580 had to be built on top and around the original building. Once completed, 580 Fifth Avenue became one of the tallest buildings in New York City.DIAMOND DEALERS CLUB  has its own synagogue  and a  kosher luncheonette.  Business in the DDC is conducted using rules that have been around for generations.  

The deals are based on honesty and trust and there are no written contracts.  DDC bylaws state that  “Any oral offer is binding among dealers, when agreement is expressed by the words ‘Mazel and Broche’ or any other words of accord.” 

 DDC become the first official diamond exchange to launch a first fully functional online diamond trading floor in 2011.

New York headquarters  of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) , the world’s largest gemological institute,  was  located at the same building as  DDC. GIA is the inventor of the “four C’s” (cut, clarity, color, carat) and educated consumers know to request GIA certification.  

 The institute  has 11 campuses and nine laboratories in 14 countries and serves as the standard-setter for the jewelry industry.

In June 2013 one of the most productive developers   Extell Development Co  opened   Gem Tower skyscraper on West 47.  As of July 2013, more than 80 percent of a three-story space in the building dedicated to a shopping center for precious gems had been leased.  Gemological Institute    acquired three full floors and nearly 80,000 square feet of space in the newly built   skyscraper. 
Gary Barnett  (Gershon Swiatycki ) is President and founder of Extell Development . His father Chaim Swiatycki was a rabbi and Talmudic scholar. Barnett began his career as a diamond trader in Antwerp, Belgium in the 1980s. I wrote about one of the latest Extell developments building, New York's tallest residential  building One57, in one of my old posts.

New York Diamond District, Part 1

Almost 80% of the world's diamonds are sold in New York, in Diamond District. A year-long study that was done several years ago found that jewelry, diamonds and gold were three of New York State’s top four exports.

The name diamond is derived from the ancient Greek αδάμας (adámas)  -  “unbreakable”   and have been treasured as gemstones since their use as religious icons in ancient India.  Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of  87 to 120 miles  in the Earth's mantle. The diamond is uniquely resistant to damage by heat or scratching, and can be cut or polished only by another diamond. The mid-nineteenth century discovery of diamonds   in South Africa sparked the world's biggest diamond rush.
There are a limited number of commercially viable diamond mines currently operating in the world.  There is only one   non-commercial diamond mine - The Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas State Park  that is open to the public.
Diamonds were very popular in the middle ages.  Many large and famous stones   such as the Koh-I-Noor and the Blue Hope were found in India at that time. You can read about Blue Hoope - the Moonstone in one of my posts.
Until the mid-1940s the jewelry trade was headquartered downtown, at Maiden Lane. In  1923 Fenimore C. Goode, a broker, promoted construction of a new building at 20 West 47th Street specifically to tempt the Maiden Lane firms to move.
There are more than 4,000 independent businesses in the Diamond District now, and nearly all of them are related to diamonds or fine jewelry. This block brings in $24 billion a year to New York. The district employs 22,300 workers, and another 10,000 if you include indirect employees.
 About 95% of the traders and workers are Jewish and many are Hasidim. During the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 the Jewish diamond merchants had to leave Spain and set up shops in Amsterdam.  Because diamond cutting required very little equipment other than some hand tools, the Jews soon made Amsterdam  the diamond capitol of Europe.    During WWII  the Jews that escaped fled to the United States.

Renée Rose Shield in her book “Diamond Stories: EnduringChange on 47th Street” wrote: “ The diamond, a pebbly object transformed into a twinkling, astronomically priced jewel, has allowed Jews to transform themselves from rejected refugees of one country to respected businessmen of another.”

There is a small Radio City Synagogue on the third floor of 30 W. 47th St.   There is  Manhattan’s only Bukharan kosher eatery, Taam-Tov in N41 where you can have Shish kebabs and pilafs.

For 58 years, 41 W. 47th St. was home to the Gotham Book Mart (the name was inspired by Washington Irving).    The store specialized in poetry, literature, books about theater, art, music and dance. The store virtually played as a literary salon, hosting  poetry and author readings and art exhibits.  American writer Arthur Miller said  about the store: “ It's impossible to imagine New York City without it."  

Fanny Steloff,  the owner of the store that was open  in 1920, died in 1989 when  she was 101.  The house was purchased in 1946 for $65,000 and sold in 2003 for $7.2 million to Boris Aranov, who   owned another adjacent building.