Bonsai collection in Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn garden has one of the largest and oldest bonsai collections on public display outside Japan.

The art of Bonsai   traces back almost 2000 yrs. The word bonsai is made up of 2 Japanese characters or word phrases, "bon" & "sai", " Bon" is the pot , tray or container, the "sai" is the tree or potted planting.  The original word Bonsai comes from the Chinese word "P'en Tsai" it sounds similar to bonsai and has nearly the same meaning.  Later on in time, the practice began to spread its reach to all of Asia and was used more in society among families of royal background. 

The art has always been considered a delicate way to express  one’s own heritage and honor. By the 17th and 18th century  the planting and growing bonsai tree was becoming more commonplace to the general Japanese public. The art of bonsai was introduced to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the Paris World Exhibition in 1900, the art of bonsai spread like wild fire to many travelers.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden   bonsai collection began in 1925 with 32 potted trees—a gift from American landscape designer Ernest F. Coe.  

  Mr. Coe imported bonsai plants from Japan in 1911. He grew the trees for several years  and later, moving to Florida, donated  his collection with 32 potted trees   to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Coe was the founder of the  Everglades National Park in Florida. 
The Garden's first bonsai master was Frank Okamura.  Frank Masao Okamura was born in Hiroshima in 1911   and moved to California when he was 13 to join his father. In 1942 he and his family were sent to the Relocation Camp in the California desert. The family lived there for more than three years.   After the war ended the family moved to New York.  Mr. Okamura worked  with Brooklyn Botanic Garden from 1947 until 1981. 
White Pine 62 years

 Emperor Hirohito awarded Mr. Okamura an Order of the Sacred Treasure medal in 1981 for his work in furthering knowledge of bonsai.  Mr. Okamura taught his students that practicing bonsai required patience, sensitivity to nature and five fundamental qualities: humanity, justice, courtesy, wisdom and fidelity.
 Today, the collection consists of approximately 350 temperate and tropical bonsai. Some of the trees in this world-class collection are well over a century old.

Julian Velasco , curator of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's bonsai collection, said: "There is a concept behind the shape of every bonsai that I care for. I started as a nature photographer.I’ve probably hiked and camped in every major national park in our country. And the challenge is the same as working with the bonsai: how can you capture the entire emotional experience of seeing what you see, feeling what you feel, in nature, in a single shot?  When you see the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, you are taking in the emotion of the place as much as the visual image, and bonsai is about that emotion, he said. It is the haiku of the tree world.”

Manhattan Municipal Building

Manhattan Municipal Building, east of City Hall Park and just north of the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, is among the largest government office buildings in the world and it does not have to surprise you –New York is one of the largest cities in the world.   January 1st, 1898, marks the first day in the life of the five boroughs of “Greater New York“.   A greater New York needed  additional   governmental space after the consolidation. 

McKim, Mead and White  was at the time the largest architectural firm in the world,  with a staff numbering over 100. A prominent American architectural company  already designed several private clubs in New York , Washington arch at Washington Square and Brooklyn museum, but the Manhattan Municipal Building would be their first skyscraper. 

It is also the first building to incorporate a New York City Subway station into its base.  Construction began in 1907 and ended in 1914. 
The limestone building incorporates Roman, Italian Renaissance and Classical styles of architecture. A major feature in the design is an open plaza, screened by Corinthian columns, that appears to be carved out of the first three stories of the structure.  The plaza flows into a central triumphal arch, inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy. So grand is the arch that automobile traffic flowed through it before Chambers Street traffic patterns were altered.
The Manhattan Municipal Building The Arch of Constantine, Rome

The statue of Civic Fame on top of the Municipal Building, installed in March 1913, is a gilded figure designed by Adolph A. Weinman.  In her left hand is a five-sectioned mural crown, to represent the five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. 

At 25 feet (8 m) tall, it is the third largest statue in all of Manhattan, after the Statue of Liberty and Bellerophon Taming Pegasus ,  located on the facade of Columbia Law School.

Audrey Munson, American artist's model and film actress, known variously as "Miss Manhattan "      for the figure of Civic Fame.  She was also the model for    more than a dozen other public sculptures in New York, including Pomona Statue on the top of the Pulitzer fountain  on Grand Army plaza.  You can read about Audrey Munson in one of my posts.The building's five cupolas also represent the five boroughs.  But who can see the statue and cupolas  except birds and Google map? The building is 25 stores plys fifteen additional stores in the tower.

The Municipal building     served as the one of the prototypes  for seven Stalin-era skyscrapers(visotki) , known as Seven Sisters.

Municipal Building in New York Moscow State Univercity Hotel Ukraina

The first skyscraper was completed in 1949, and all seven were completed within 10 years.  These buildings became: Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills; two government buildings, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; two residential buildings; and two hotels, the Ukraina and the Leningrad. The actual construction of the Sisters was carried out by thousands of prisoners from the Gulag, as well as German prisoners of war.
     The Seven Sisters were the first large-scale construction in Europe after the war, and the first to bring skyscrapers to Europe.   Some 2.6 billion Soviet roubles were spent on Moscow State University alone – which has beautiful marble staircases and was the tallest building in Europe until the exhibition center at Frankfurt-on-Main was completed in 1990. 

By  1950s America was already building very different high-rises of modern materials such as concrete and glass – Lever house, the first first fully climate-controlled building in New York was built in 1952 and Seagram building in 1958.

The Municipal Building has also earned fame as the place where approximately 30,000 New Yorkers are married each year in civil ceremonies that last about 4 minutes.

The Secret Garden in the Museum of Modern Art

It is difficult to find a peaceful and quiet place  in the middle of Manhattan.  

The Sculpture Garden in the Museum of Modern Art is one of such places. 
The secret garden is hidden behind a tall wall in the heart of Midtown, on West 54 between 5th and 6th avenues.   
Beginning September 9  2013, the garden is free for visiting every morning  from 9AM to 10-15AM. The entrance is from West 54th.  

 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was organized in 1929 and did not have a permanent home for the first ten years.  Museum expanded in the 1950s and  the garden was added in 1953. The architect Philip Johnson and landscape architect James Fanning  designed a garden dedicated to  Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  

Abby married John in 1901 and the couple had been  living at  13 West 54th Street from 1901 until 1913. In 1913 they moved to a nine-story mansion at 10 West 54th Street, the largest in New York city at the time.   Twenty-five years after  the mansion   was constructed it was demolished   to make way for the sculpture garden . Rockefellers moved   in  1938  to  40-room triplex apartment at 740 Park Avenue.

In the garden you can take a sit in a moveable chair among works by Rodin, Picasso, Calder, and other masters.   Sunken court is divided into four unequal areas with a central island and  two long pools.  I was in the garden on a chilly but bright April morning  and there was nobody except me.   The Garden Bar where you can buy  gelato or iced coffee was closed.  
I think that in summer on a weekend the garden  could be really crowded. 
Since 1971, Summergarden  on Sunday has been bringing contemporary classical and jazz music to MoMA. Admission is free but  the seating is limited if the Sculpture Garden is full.  The garden   will open at 7 p.m. on Sunday and concerts will begin at 8 p.m. and last 60-90 minutes.

The Crown Building, the first place of MOMA museum

    The Crown Building, at 730 Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, has one of midtown Manhattan's finest roofs.  It sits on the place of the old Frederick W. Stevens mansion at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. In 1875 millionaire Frederick W. Stevens commissioned architect George Harney to design a French mansion for him and his family. Harney created beautifully crafted interiors filled with European spoils and French antiques.  
    The house was unique in the fact that it had its’ own ballroom  near the rear of the first floor.  After Mr. Stevens died his widow remarried and sold the property. Later the owners of the house were Harry Payne and his wife Gertrude Vanderbilt, whose father Cornelius Vanderbilt IIs, lived across the street.  In 1907 Harry and Gertrude moved to   871 Fifth Avenue and sold the mansion to developers who demolished it.

Frederick W. Stevens house

    Crown building, the elegant limestone tower with French Renaissance details, was built in 1921. It is  416-foot high and originally was called Hecksher Building after its developer August Hecksher, a German immigrant.   August Heckscher came to the United States from Germany in 1867 and by the turn of the century his various mining operations had made him wealthy. At first Heckscher built a three-story building of offices and shops and later announced plans for a tall office building.

 In 1929, the Museum of Modern Art opened its first gallery here in rented rooms on the 12th floor. The museum began in six rooms with a total of 4,500-square feet of space.  Alfred  H Barr, the first director of the musem, wrote about the building: "... It is perfectly a well-known landmark and re rent is very low- $2.50 per foot in comparison with $3.50 and $4 in nearby buildings  "

Three years later, museum relocated to a five-story townhouse at 11 West 53rd Street.
The   President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986,  Ferdinand Marcos secretly bought The Crown Building  in 1981.   There were rumors that the first Lady of Filipinas, the former beauty queen Imelda convinced her husband to  buy the building by crying.

 Ferdinand Marcos
 died   in Honolulu on September 28, 1989.   He left behind a reputation as one of the most corrupt and ruthless leaders in modern Asia. After his death  the Philippine Government claimed that it had a right to the property because the Marcoses  bought hundreds of millions of dollars in New York real estate with money that it says they stole from the national treasury.  
In 1991   a Fifth Avenue landmark once owned by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, was sold at auction on Friday after years of court battles. 

Playboy Enterprises rented the space in Crown Building in 1992. In 2004 Playboy   renewed its lease  and expanded its presence in the building to more than 73,000 square feet for a term of 15 years. The lease encompasses the entire third and fourth floors, and part of the fifth floor.
 I walked past this building a thousand times but never saw any bunnies!

Barbizon , Club Residence for Professional Woman

In  1920s  women had gained a great deal of independence.    It was an exciting time for the modern woman.  The most familiar symbol of the “Roaring Twenties” is a young woman with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank and smoked. Most young women in the 1920s did none of these things  but they could vote at last: The 19th Amendment to the Constitution had guaranteed that right in 1920. Millions of women started working  in white-collar jobs (as stenographers, for example) and could afford to participate in the burgeoning consumer economy.

Barbizon hotel  was built as a "Club Residence for Professional Woman," a residence for single women looking for a job in the Big Apple,  in 1927. The hotel replaced rows of brownstone residences at the corner of East 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue.  The Chicago Tribune said “The building is especially designed for business and professional women with such unique features as gymnasium, swimming pool, studios and other conveniences usually found only in men’s clubs.”

 Hotel  had 700 tiny hotel rooms  with just enough space for a desk, bed, dresser and a window. Electrical appliances were not allowed. The bathrooms were shared. But activities included  organ recitals and  Shakespeare readings.  The virginity of the young  girls who had been living there was safe- men were not allowed above the second floor.
The “club” atmosphere of the hotel, formerly relegated to men’s hotels, was innovative for the women hotel.

It was, according to Time magazine, “one of the few places in Gomorrah-on-the-Hudson where a girl could take her virtue to bed and rest assured it would still be there next morning.”
In the 1930s, the list of hotel   residents included actress Gene Tierney, writer Eudora Welty and Margaret Tobin Brown, a survivor of the Titanic whose story inspired the Broadway musical, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

From the 40s through the late 60s, the hotel  housed a roll of remarkable women ( not discovered yet at that time)  :  Joan Crawford,  Grace Kelly and Lisa  Minnelli stayed there.

The future first lady Nancy Davis Reagan stayed there in the 1940s, when the Ford Modeling Agency began housing its models in the hotel.  

In 1980, the hotel had 110 long-term residents with   rents range from $113 to $424 a month. Over the years, the place was renovated numerous times to bring the room count down to about 300.
Men began staying there in 1981. Then KLM Airlines bought the building in 1983 only to sell it five years later.  The Barbizon hotel was converted into condominiums in 2006.
“ Barbizon 63” condo  contains 70 units  that range from one-bedroom condominiums to duplex penthouse. There is Club Salon, a private dining and reception area with a library and a 20-seat screening room.

POPS- what's it?

If you’ve spent some time in New York City,  chances are one of the plazas, arcades, outdoor or indoor spaces you visited was a POPS — a Privately Owned Public Space.  A privately owned public space is a public space that is open to the public, but owned by a private entity, typically a commercial property developer.
Today there are over 500 POPS throughout the city, most of which are  in Midtown, Lower Manhattan and the Upper East and West Sides.

Privately owned public spaces in New York City were introduced as a formal concept in a 1961 zoning resolution. In the first 14 years, the zoning code offered a simple exchange: one square foot of vacant space at the base of a building for 10 square feet of bonus floor area to rent or sell. The city amended the code in 1975 and require the developers  to add amenities like benches and trees.
Sony building lobby

The Zoning Resolution does provide some comparative guidance with regard to four expressly defined categories of plazas, including the “plaza” (1961), “urban plaza” (1975), “residential plaza (1977), and “public plaza” (2007). Different rules attach to each of these categories.
Urban designers see these small spaces as providing something different than the larger parks. They are, first and foremost, places for people to gather and relax. 

William H. Whyte, in his book "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", observed, "The best-used places are sociable places, with a higher proportion of couples than you find in less used places, more people in groups, more people meeting people, or exchanging goodbyes."

Citigroup building
They are places for office workers to eat their lunch and get a breath of air; for senior citizens to sit and socialize; for shoppers to take a break; and even for busy pedestrians to stop and talk on their cell phones. They make a city more livable. A lot of POPs  are inside the buildings. In a cold or rainy weather it is very useful to know where you can find a dry and warm shelter.
On October  2011, Kayden, founder of Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space,  and the Municipal Art Society (MAS) launched a new mobile-friendly website——to engage and inform the public by making data, photos, and site plans of the parks. The information was drawn from a comprehensive study in 2000 of the city’s POPS and from Kayden’s subsequent book, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience.
Paley park

I already wrote about some of them- look at the posts about 6 ½ Avenue -  a quarter-mile corridor of privately owned public spaces  in Midtown, Paley Park - small vest pocket park in midtown Manhattan and the lobby in the Citigroup building.

6 1/2 Avenue
The most famous POPS probably  is Zuccotti Park ( Liberty Plaza Park) controlled by Brookfield Properties.    "Occupy Wall Street" protest used  Zuccotti Park as a campground in 2011. Until the occupation of Zucotti Park,   POPS, were a mystery even  to the most of  New Yorkers .   Ever since, people have been debating the fate of these spaces and what the city should do to ensure their accessibility at the same time to public is expected to behave themselves.

Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island Estate

Twenty five minutes from mid-town Manhattan, the village of Old Westbury on Long Island’s North Shore, the most southern extension of the famed Gold Coast,  has one of the top ten wealthiest zip codes in America.  At the turn of the last century, Long Island's Gold Coast was the most fashionable escape for America's wealthiest citizens. Old Westbury Gardens is perhaps the most recognizable of all Gold Coast estate,  most of which date to around the beginning of the twentieth century .

Jay Phipps, son of Henry Phipps, who had made his fortune in the steel industry, had bought over 175 acres of Long Island property, dotted with Quaker homesteads.  Jay was the son of a Henry Phipps, a shoemaker from England who was   childhood pals with   Andrew Carnegie.
An English Restoration-style manor house,  completed in 1906,  was built by Jay and his wife    Margerita (Dita) Grace, of the Grace shipping family.   The story is that Jay persuaded Dita to marry him with a promise of an English manor house and gardens for her, like those in which she lived during her teens.

Jay and Dita raised four children in this home, living here from September to January of each year. Westbury House was a happy house for a large happy family- it was  filled with children   and their beloved dogs. 

 Prior to his death in 1957,   Jay set up a trust in order to preserve the estate.  
Their only daughter  Peggie (Margaret) , became chairman of the Old Westbury Gardens, Inc. and remained active until her death in 2006, two months shy of her 100th birthday.   

In 1920s Jay purchased several large properties in West Palm Beach, Florida  where he built a large   oceanfront mansion.  Today, the property is occupied by his granddaughter, Susan Phipps Cochran, and her husband.

Since 1958,  the public has been allowed to roam the gardens and take tours of the manor house.

The magnificent
 Charles II-style mansion is nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens  with more than 100 species of trees, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes.  There is a circular rose garden, thatched cottage and an Italianate walled garden with trees trained to grow in the shape of candelabras.  There are grand vistas down rows of linden and beech trees.

The  main entrance gates were created in the early 1700’s and later, in 1918,    discovered   by Westbury House designer George Crawley. The gates were shopped to New York in 1920. In the center of the arch is the face of Janus—the Roman god whose image was portrayed with two faces pointing in opposite directions or on the verse and reverse.  Above the image of Janus is Phipps’s initials “JSP” enclosed in a cartouche.  

Westbury House and the Gardens have been featured in many movies and TV episodes, such as  North by Northwest (directed by Alfred Hitchcock  in 1959) , Love Story  (1970, directed by Arthur Hiller) Age of Innocence, 1993 and Wolf, 1994, starring Jack Nicholson & Michelle Pfeiffer.

The house and gardens are magnificent.  Visitors can easily spend several hours here. This is a beautiful place to go any time.  In winter you can have pictures with Santa  for  free.  For Halloween, there is an evening glow-in-the dark pumpkin walk, with pumpkin carvings, all lit up at night. 
There is  a Café in the woods and  picnic tables very close to it.   $10 a person includes parking, the grounds/gardens and a guided tour  (every half hour) of the house.   In  summer there are outdoor classical concerts and classic car show (June 1, 2014)