Chelsea Market - a place not only for a foodie

Chelsea Market,   indoor market in a rustic building  in Chelsea Manhattan,  is ranked N6 of 584 shopping places in  New York by Trip Advisor. It attracts over 6 million national and international visitors annually.  Throughout the market, there are a lot of  decidedly vintage looking fixtures, like the switch compressor,  a strange looking light, a stone bench with a stone pillow  or    fountain constructed out of discarded drill bits and an exposed pipe.
 There is an eclectic mix of cuisines and foods in addition to some vintage/boutique shops there. 

 You can find multiple small restaurants and food shops there:   a  bakery, cheese shop, wine shop, cookware shop. You can buy  here Moroccan   carpets and     Thai grocery , bestsellers and travel guides,  pots and pans, fresh meat, fresh bakery, fresh spices and   fresh flowers. 
You can eat tacos and gelatos, Australian meat pies and lobster, terrific chocolate brownies and handmade candy bars.  And everything listed above is under the one roof- you do not need to go outside!  It's a foodie paradise . It is a wonderful place  to walk through, especially when it is cold or rain outside, grab a bite or shop a little bit. You can spend at least two hours if you wish, maybe more. Everything is pricier than what you would see outside the marketplace, but  on Happy Hour that  starts at 4pm many of the restaurants  have discount food or drinks.  
Chelsea Market's rise coincides with the neighborhood's dramatic transformation. A very popular linear park High Line runs through the building.  Hudson River Park and  Chelsea Piers  are fifteen minutes by foot from the Market.
 But Chelsea Market not only about shopping. This huge building  (800 foot long)  occupies the whole block between 10 and 11 avenues and   has an amazing history.

For more than 50 years, beginning in the 1890's, the building had been part of a large factory operated by Nabisco(National Biscuit Company).  And the most successful product of Nabisco is Oreo cookie.
Most of Americans  have grown up with Oreo cookies. Everybody knows how Oreo look: two chocolate wafers with a sweet cream filling in between. And a lot of people know how it tastes: Oreo has become the best selling cookie in the United States since its introduction in 1912.

The first Oreo cookie looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today, with only a slight difference in the design on the chocolate disks. The price in 1912 was 30 cents per pound.  Oreo was  produced  in the Chelsea market building for the first time in 1912. 
  Nabisco  company was found in  1898 and very quickly became one of the  most widely recognized names in the American food industry.  In 1906, the company moved its headquarters from Chicago to New York.   The Nabisco bakery complex was designed and built by the company’s staff architect, Albert G. Zimmerman. A year after that, Zimmerman also designed the 11-story full-block structure located on a former landfill site located in between 10th and 11th Avenue and 15th and 16th Street  across the street from the current Chelsea Market.

In 1958  the Nabisco production line moved to Fair Lawn, New Jersey and never returned to New York. In 1970s and 1980s  the old Nabisco complex in New York was used by a variety of companies to fulfill light industrial needs. 
In the 1990's, the investor Irwin B. Cohen organized a syndicate to buy the principal National Biscuit buildings, from Ninth to 11th Avenue and 15th to 16th Street. The neighborhood was a lot different at that time
"It was the Wild West in Manhattan," Mr. Cohen said. "There had been three gangland-style murders in the building, with people on their knees shot in the back of the head. The building was controlled by street prostitutes, who told the staff when to open and close the loading docks. They used the loading docks for their clothes changes. And the tenants were in a revolt."

Over the next several years Mr. Cohen reinvented the older complex, between Ninth and 10th Avenue, re-renting the upper floors to an emerging group of technology companies.   Google office is  on the second floor and Youtube- on the fifth.

New York times wrote in August 2005: " To walk through the Chelsea Market is to stroll through a sort of postindustrial theme park, carefully festooned with the detritus of a lost industrial culture, interspersed with food stores and restaurants....The old factory floors weave and bob, and the central hall is a jumble of disused ducts, an artificial waterfall, the original train shed, old signboards and other elements. Mr. Cohen's group remade the 1913 building on the west side of 10th Avenue into a regular office building, but the lobby is just as astonishing as Chelsea Market's, an amalgam of old cast iron light poles, plate girders, portholes and banks of television sets - it could be the Nautilus, Captain Nemo's submarine in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

I visited  Chelsea Market twice for very short visits, and both times   I did not want to leave.  Holiday season  is around the corner, and I plan  to go there with my camera to make pictures.

Thanksgiving parade 2014

Last time I was at the  Thanksgiving parade  seventeen years ago. Less than half a year before I  arrived in New York. I understood almost nothing about the life here, I know nothing about New York and know almost nobody  in this city except my family. It was a very cold and sunny day seventeen years ago. I felt alone and out of place. I did not pay much attention to the parade - I was trying not to lose my teenage daughter in the crowd.  Seventeen years passed and  I was  at the Thanksgiving parade for the second ( and I hope not for the last ) time in my life. I felt  completely comfortable,  laughed  and chatted with people  near me. The young guy standing near   said to me   :   "I'm from Argentine. I love the parade. And where are you from?" And I proudly answered : "I'm from New York!" .
 Here you can find my old post about Macy's Thanksgiving parade that I published last year  ago. And  below you can enjoy the pictures that I did today several hours ago on the 88th Macy's thanksgiving parade.

Ballet and Masons: New York City Center

New York City   Center,   a wonderful concert venue  in the heart of Manhattan on West 55 between 6 and 7 Avenue,    was built in  1923 as a meeting hall for the members of  the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine,  commonly known as Shriners. 
According to  Shriners web site,  "Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples (chapters) in seven countries and thousands of clubs around the world. "
 I saw shriners for the first time in 2006 on their parade when I was on vacation in Virginia beach. I was surprised to see  hundreds of men dressed in the red funny hats on a tiny cars.  It was the first time in my life when I met Masons.

In 1870, several thousand of the 900,000 residents of Manhattan were Masons.  Many of these Masons used  to  lunch at a special table  at the  restaurant at  Sixth Avenue.  Two of the table regulars,  a prominent surgeon   Walter   Fleming   and  a well known actor  William   Florence  thought that  the world’s oldest fraternity – Masonry was   too focused on ritual. These guys wanted a fraternity that stressed fun and fellowship.

Florence came up with the idea for a Near Eastern-themed party after attending a party thrown by an Arabian diplomat in France.  Fleming added the structure, sketching  the   name,   rituals and rules.  Together, Fleming and Florence designed the fraternity’s emblem   and determined that the red fez with the black tassel would be the group’s official headgear.

The fez derived its name from the place where it was first manufactured , the   city of Fe in  Morocco.  
In  1922, the New York Shriners purchased a lot  on West 55th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  Harry P. Knowles, a Mason and a Shriner, designed the Moorish-style buildings, but he died early and  the architectural firm of Clinton & Russell realized Knowles' designs.
 The 2,750-seat auditorium had a level main floor and two steeply-sloped balconies. In the basement there was one of the largest ballrooms in New York City. At the north side of the lot and opening onto 56th Street was a   12-story building that contained offices and three lodge rooms for use by the 12,000 members of the temple.

The Mosque of Mecca Temple opened on December 29, 1924.  For the next several years, Mecca Temple was rented for a variety of dramatic and musical performances, lectures and meetings.
In 1937 the temple defaulted on its mortgage payments and in 1942 the city claimed the building for $622,000 in back taxes.  Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia saved the building  and   developed the idea for the City Center for Music and Drama, a New York home for the best of theater, music, and dance.
Today there are approximately 350,000 Shrine Masons ( only men!) belonging to 191 chapters in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Republic of Panama.  In order to become a Shriner, a man must first be a Master Mason -all Shriners are Masons, but not all Masons are Shriners.   Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt   and Harry S. Truman , actor Clark Gable and the second men on the moon Edwin Aldrin,  the Founder of the FBI John Edgar Hoover and the last king of Hawaii were shriners.
The City Center today  is  Manhattan’s premier  arts center.  Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York City Symphony in   after-work concerts in New York City Center .   The New York City Ballet and New York City Opera were both born at this theater.   In 1987  Mr. Baryshnikov and Mr. Nureyev appeared on the same program as  Maya Plicetskaya  in this theater. The renowned choreographer  Boris  Eifman  marked the  marked  the 35th anniversary  of his Ballet of St. Petersburg with the U.S. premiere of  " Rodin" in 2012 in New York City Center.
 In 2011, City Center was reopened  after a  started a $75 million renovation. The mosaic walls, arabesque ceilings and the original box-office lobby were restored.
In May 2015   New York City Center presents the American premiere of the new ballet  "Tender is the night"  from Boris Eifman  based on the adaptation of novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.   Tickets are on sale now- so you have a chance to see an beautiful  ballet in a beautiful  theater!   

Verrazano Bridge is 50: The New York's youngest and the hemisphere's longest bridge.

In his letter  sent  to King Francis I of France in July 1524  Giovanni da Verrazzano wrote:  "...we found a very agreeable place  between two small but prominent hills; between them a very wide river, deep at its mouth, flowed out into the sea...". Historians agree that it is the first mention of  Staten Island and the Narrows in written history of the New York Harbor.
 Four hundred and forty years later and fifty years ago  the bridge connecting  two sides of the narrows- Staten Island and Brooklyn  was built. The Italian Historical Society of America suggested  to name the bridge "Verrazano Bridge"  to honor Italian explorer   Giovanni da Verrazzano. Governor Nelson Rockefeller agreed,  but the name was  misspelled - the second  'z'   got dropped  from  the name .   Other suggested names for the bridge included: the Gateway Bridge, the Liberty Bridge and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge. 

Between the late 1800s and about 1935, there were many attempts to build a tunnel between Staten Island and Manhattan. In  1923 the construction of the  Staten Island tunnel  started .The tunnel had to connect railways on Staten Island  to the subway line on the Fourth Avenue  in Brooklyn.  The full plan included   Narrows Tunnel, the 4th Avenue Brooklyn subway, and another tunnel going directly from Staten Island to Manhattan, with stops on the Jersey side of the harbor, and even stations at Liberty and Ellis islands. Because of unexpected costs, the work was stopped.   The abandoned tunnel went 150 feet (45m) into The Narrows  in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.
By the  way there are really two underwater tunnels between Brooklyn and Staten Island,   but these  tunnels, built more than hundred years ago,  are not for  the cars and buses  but for the drinking water. Staten Island is the island in the ocean and  does not have its own source of  drinking water.  In 1970 a new 10-foot diameter  Richmond water  tunnel  was built, so the old water tunnels remain now as a backup.

In 1926, bridge engineer David Steinman proposed a suspension bridge  across the Narrows. Steinmann named it Liberty Bridge.  The proposed bridge was a hybrid of  the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco  and the Brooklyn Bridge with two  800-foot-tall Gothic towers .  The Liberty bridge was never built.
The New York City Board of Transportation floated two additional Narrows Tunnel proposals in 1929 and 1937. All proposals were   shelved because of the Depression, and later, because of World War II.
In 1957  the New York State Legislature and the Board of Estimate approved construction of the new  bridge. The bridge was the brainchild of Robert Moses, who had more influence on New York City that perhaps any other individual in its history. Among Moses's many other projects are  the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel  and  Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.   The bridge, connecting Staten Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was the last major road in Moses's grand plan to connect all of New York by car.
The chief engineer was the great Swiss engineer Othmar Ammann.  The bridge was the last project designed by   Ammann, who had started his career in New York   on the George Washington Bridge in 1927.  When Verrazano bridge opened,  Ammann was 85 years old.

The new   bridge was  so large that its design called for the towers to be angled slightly away from each other to compensate for the curvature of the Earth. Some 12,000 men worked on the bridge; about 1,000 men worked on site during the construction schedule's peak.   About 800 buildings were demolished, requiring the relocation of 7,000 residents.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened on November 21, 1964, at a cost of $320.1 million. At that time   it was the longest cable suspension bridge in the world.  Today it remains the longest suspension bridge in the United States, spanning 9,865 feet.    On November 22, 1964, the Bay Ridge-St. George, Staten Island ferry went out of business after almost a century’s service.   In 1964  the cost to cross  the bridge  was $0.50.  Now the full fare is  $15.  By 2009, the bridge was generating $1 million every twenty four hours for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. MTA officials are considering yet another hike on the Verrazano Bridge - the   drivers will pay  $16 cash toll to make the journey from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

There are three amusing  facts that I found about the bridge on Wikipedia:
• Because of thermal expansion of the steel cables, the bridge roadway is 12 feet (3.66 m) lower in summer than in winter
• The bridge's two towers are the tallest structures in New York City outside of Manhattan, and are taller than the tallest non-Manhattan buildings. 
• The cruise ship Queen Mary 2 was redesigned with a flatter funnel to pass under the bridge, and has 13 feet (3.96 m) of clearance under the bridge during high tide.

The construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened many areas of the Staten Island  to residential and commercial development.    Staten Island's population doubled from about 221,000 in 1960 to about 443,000 in 2000.
Verrazano bridge  remains the major commuting artery connecting Staten Island to the rest of New York City, carrying nearly 200,000 drivers each day.  Fifty years ago  years ago  a regular U.S. mail stamp was issued in 1964, celebrating the bridge's opening.

Tomorrow, on the bridge's 50th anniversary   United States Post Office representatives will officially unveil an express mail stamp commemorating the event. 

Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

There are five boroughs in New York, four of them are on the islands, and only one, the Bronx, on the main land.  The largest borough is Manhattan and Brooklyn is the next.  Brooklyn is located in the southern- eastern part of Long Island and is separated from Manhattan by  East River, that is not a river at all  but a very deep bay. There is Hudson river that separates Manhattan from New Jersey, and Harlem river to the north is a border between Manhattan and the Bronx. 

There are three  bridges connecting Long Island and Manhattan - Brooklyn Bridge,  Manhattan bridge and Williamsburg Bridge,   and one tunnel - the longest continuous underwater road in North America - Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  There are four traffic lanes in the tunnel l and the length is about nine thousand feet ( 2.7 km).  The Battery in the tunnel's name refers to the southernmost tip of Manhattan, site of an artillery battery during the earliest days of New York City.
 It has a total of four huge ventilation buildings: two in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one on Governors Island that can completely cycle the air inside the tunnel every 90 seconds. There  four ventilation buildings  that can completely change the air inside the tunnel.
Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1883, Williamsburg bridge  was open twenty years  later in  1903 and in 1909 Manhattan  bridge was built.   The city was developing very quickly. Look at the numbers: in 1910 there were about  4.7 million people in New York and thirty years later-almost 7 million!   

Robert Moses ( 1888 –  1981) was the "master builder" of New York at that time and he proposed to build a new Brooklyn-Battery bridge connection Downtown and Brooklyn. The tunnel was hugely expensive to build in 1940. Bridges can be wider and cheaper to build but tall bridges use more ramp space at landfall than tunnels. Objections to a bridge abounded from the public and other city officials. President Franklin Roosevelt insisted that it was a matter of national security since a bridge between the harbor and the Brooklyn Navy Yards upriver could be a risk to national defense.
Construction started in 1940.  The federal government postponed the project in October 1942 to conserve steel and iron for World War II.  The  tunnel was opened to traffic in 1950.  The tunnel was designed by Ole Singstad,   Norwegian-American civil engineer who innovated the ventilation system for the Holland Tunnel.  Singstad also designed  Lincoln Tunnel   under the Hudson River, connecting   New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan.

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel passes underwater and off-shore of the Governors Island northeast corner, its location marked by a ventilation building connected to the island by a causeway.

The tunnel was closed in advance of Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012. During the storm surge, it was completely flooded. Some 86 million gallons of water had to be pumped out before it could be reopened nearly two weeks after the storm.
The tunnel was officially renamed the Hugh L. Carey  ( on October 22, 2012, but almost nobody know it ( except Google, of course) .

Hugh L. Carey   was governor of New York in the 1970s. He took control of the state’s reeling finances and was credited with saving New York City from bankruptcy.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: unfinished facade and a new plaza

New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the world. There are  more than 2 million pieces of art, including  renowned paintings,   porcelain, musical instruments, historical artifacts, costumes and even armaments.  More than 6 million people visited the museum in 2013.  
Museum opened in 1880. Facade and Great Hall, designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, opened to the public in December 1902.  Hunt designed the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and many Fifth Avenue mansions, that were later demolished, and founded both the American Institute of Architects and the Municipal Art Society. Richard Morris Hunt died before construction of the museum  began, and his son carried out the design almost to his specifications.  
 In Hunt’s original design, the four pairs of columns had to be topped by sculpture groups representing  four great periods of art: Egyptian, Greek, Renaissance and Modern.  Between each pair of columns there is a niche where Hunt intended to set a copy of one great work from each historical era.
But these plans were never  realized -  money ran out, the blocks went unfinished, and the niches are still empty.

During last two years the  museum's Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade  was hidden behind  the blue plywood.   Two years ago billionaire industrialist and Metropolitan Museum of Art Trustee David Koch  contributed the entire $65 million cost of the project.
 With an estimated net worth of $41.9 billion, David Koch is the sixth-richest person in the world. In 2008, the David H. Koch Foundation gave $100 million to preserve and renovate the Lincoln Center's State Theater of New York, now known as the David H. Koch Theater. It houses the New York City Ballet.  This gift of  $20,000,000 established the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing in the American Museum of Natural History.  A cancer survivor, Koch donated  $100 million  to the  Integrative Cancer Research at Koch's alma mater, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

The new plaza opened to the public  on  September  10 this year.  David H. Koch said: “The new plaza is something that will not only beautify the Metropolitan Museum, but also Fifth Avenue and the entire neighborhood, by creating a welcoming, warm, and vibrant open space that the public can enjoy. Although the Met is best known for its magnificent art collections, inspiring architecture, and interior grand spaces, the OLIN-designed plaza will also make the exterior of the Met a masterpiece.”

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Museum, said: "Finally, more than a century after the completion of the Met's grand Fifth Avenue facade, and more than forty years after its last plaza renovation, the Museum has created a truly welcoming point of entry, a cityscape that is environmentally friendly and that will please our visitors as they come to experience the unparalleled breadth of masterpieces on display inside. Rather than finding the complexity of the project daunting—from the hauling of granite for new fountains and paving stones, to the planting of trees and the installation of hundreds of LED lights, on an area roughly the equivalent size of three football fields—David Koch recognized its significance, embraced it, and made it happen."

You can find the name of the contributor,  David Koch, on the base of fountains.

Staten Island Ferry-the best free ride in New York City

The best way to admire the Manhattan skyline is from the harbor.  Staten Island Ferry, considered the “Best Ride in New York City,”   gives you this opportunity for free.   Everybody knows that New York City is the city that never sleeps.   Staten Island ferry schedule proves it:  ferry runs  24/7 365 (or even 366!)  days a year!  From the deck of the ferry you will have a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You'll see the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan. Today, the ferry is recognized as a New York icon and a symbol of the borough of Staten Island.

Today, Staten Island is the fastest growing borough in New York City. In area, it is two and a half times as large as Manhattan, but its current population of nearly 500,000 is less than Manhattan’s was in 1850. The only direct link to Manhattan is the Staten Island Ferry.

 The first Ferry between  Manhattan and  Staten Island  established in 1747. On October 25, 1905, the new  ferryboats  named after the five city boroughs -  Brooklyn, Bronx, Richmond, Queens, and Manhattan  were introduced. These were the largest ferries on the East Coast and made the crossing ( 5 miles- 8 km)  in 22.5 minutes.
 In 1905, a nickel bought a ride aboard one of these  coal burning  steam ferries.   In the early days of NYC ferry travel one side of the boat had the men's toilet and the other side had the women's toilet and the signage was to assist passengers so they could easily locate the correct facility without having to encircle the entire vessel.  Later after these boats were retrofitted with multiple bathrooms on each side the MEN and WOMEN sides became SMOKING and NO SMOKING sides.
On July 4 1997,  after 82 years of the history,  the Staten Island Ferry (50 cents round trip) , turned into a free boat ride,  just as the same day when a new  Metrocard   allow  free transfers between buses and subways in the city.
In October 2003   one of the five vessels  slammed into a pier while docking amidst high winds. Eleven commuters were killed.  Since then, precautions and protocols have been adopted and the   ferry returned to service after a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation   with a permanent memorial plaque. Seven years later the same ferry boat , the Andrew J. Barberi, one of the largest in the Staten Island fleet, was involved in another accident. The  ferry   was commissioned in 1981. For five days after Hurricane Sandy, the Staten Island Ferry did not operate. The boats were mostly unscathed during the storm. But there was $30 million in damage to the St. George and Whitehall terminals and to the piers.

New York   is planning to acquire a total of three new 4,500-passenger ferries that will be more maneuverable, resilient and capable of operating in a wider range of locations and conditions.
Now on a  typical day, 109 trips move about 70,000 people across the harbor, making the Staten Island Ferry one of the most reliable forms of mass transit in the city. A new  Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan  was open in 2005,  replacing the old one  damaged by fire in 1991.
No cars are allowed on the ferries after carried due to security concerns after 9/11/2001.

There are nine ferry boats in four classes currently in service.  The keel of the newest one Spirit of America built with steel from The World Trade Center Towers. The ship was named to honor the spirit and unity of America after the attacks.
Two  of them The Newhouse and Barberi are the highest passenger capacity vessels in the world at 6000 passengers each. 

Beer, soft drinks, sandwiches, hotdogs, and pretzels are available for purchase on board, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But my advice is- grab something  to eat before embarking the ferry - you can have better and cheaper choices. To  enjoy  the best free view of the statue of Liberty  and the wonderful New York skyline   do not go inside the boat and stand near the railing on the right side of the ferry.  And do not forget to bring a jacket or   a windbreaker - the winds on the water can be surprisingly brisk. The best time to go  is 30 minutes before the sunset  on a sunny day.  And do not leave you camera at home!