One Times Square and New Year Ball

Pubst Hotel
One Times Square (2014)
 One Times Square or just Times Tower    stands on an isolated triangle of land at Broadway, Seventh Avenue, and 42nd Street.  The building was completed in 1904 to serve as the new headquarters of The New York Times. 

The Pubst hotel, built just 5 years before on the same lot, was demolished to give way to the new development.  Before Times Tower was built,  the  square was named   Longacre Square after Long Acre in London.  At the end of the nineteenth century the area was the   center of New York's carriage industry, and  Long Acre in London  was where the carriage trade in that city was centered.

The New York Times officially moved into the building in January 1905. The paper's owner, Adolph Ochs,  successfully persuaded the city to rename the surrounding area  after the newspaper, becoming Times Square.  At that time the tower was  the second tallest skyscraper in Manhattan.

To celebrate the 1904 New Year Ochs threw a lavish New Year’s celebration that was to be “the talk of the town.  The party was successful , but  shooting fireworks off the building ended   two years later when the city banned them. Times  had to   find a different symbol for starting the New Year.   In 1907 the first New Year's Eve Ball dropped  from the flagpole atop One Times Square. 

Six years after the first Ball drop, The New York Times moved to a new building. One Times Square is now totally empty except for a Walgreen's, offices for a New Year's planning company, and the Ball on its roof.
Greenwich, England
Picture of 2004 year

The first "time-ball" was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers. In 1845 a  time ball was installed atop  the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC . In cities, people set their personal clocks to the time balls. 
In 1884, someone even proposed erecting a time ball on top of the Washington Monument.

The Ball on the Times Square has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943 because of the war time when the lights were dimmed in New York.

The first New Year's Eve Ball was made of iron and wood, and had    one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. The ball  was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds.  In 1920, a 400 pound Ball made entirely of wrought iron replaced the original. In 1955, the iron Ball was replaced with an aluminum Ball weighing a mere 150 pounds. This aluminum Ball remained unchanged until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the "I Love New York" marketing campaign from 1981 until 1988.

The Ball at the Visitors Center, now closed
 ( photo of 2013)
After seven years, the traditional glowing white Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned to brightly light the sky above Times Square. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls, but the aluminum Ball was lowered for the last time in 1998.
The fourth ball with    over 600 halogen bulbs and 504 triangle-shaped crystal panels  was constructed at Waterford's factory in Ireland, and was then shipped to New York City, where the lighting system and motorized mirrors were installed.
Times Center Visitors Center (now closed
) Photo of 2013

In 2007, for the 100th anniversary of the Times Square Ball Drop tradition, Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting crafted a spectacular new LED crystal Ball - the Ball N5.
There was  an  excellent Visitors Center on  Times Square, now unfortunately permanently closed . The 2008    New Year's Eve ball was on display. The ball changed color and did  a faux-countdown every now and then.  I was in this center several times and made a short movie with the ball.

At midnight on New Year's Eve, as the Ball Drop signals the start to 2015, 3,000 pounds of confetti will flutter down on revelers in Times Square. The confetti will be covered in wishes,   collected and displayed at the   Mobile Wishing Wall set to be presented throughout Times Square during the month of December.

Lord & Taylor holiday windows 2014

Lord & Taylor has been celebrating the holiday season by decorating their windows for passersby since 1938.  In 1938 the owners avoid the traditional method of presenting store merchandise. They created  a purely decorative display of gilded bells that swung in sync with the sounds of recorded bells. Electricity allowed shop owners to light their windows at night and it attracted a lot of crowds far past closing time.

“It’s no different than a small Broadway production,” Manoel Renha, a window designer at Lord & Taylor, told The New York Times. “It’s very elaborate.” And like a Broadway performance, the windows have become a destination attraction all their own.
By Lord & Taylor’s count, more than 250,000 people pass by their windows daily during the holidays. This year Lord & Taylor did a more imaginative holiday window than in the past. The windows were created by a team of over 50 people over 9 months.  The window sets weigh up to 2,000 pounds and are the only department store windows on hydraulics; the windows were created in a workshop underneath the Fifth Avenue sidewalk and were then moved onto street level.

This year every window is converted into one of the rooms  in the  an enchanted mansion on the eve of the holidays.    Rooms including “The Heritage Gallery” and the “Hall of Wisdom” are filled with surprises to delight and entertain, honoring the building’s 100-year history in decidedly modern fashion. While the windows certainly shone on their own, Lord & Taylor enhanced the viewer experience with a first-ever video wall technology.

Santa and Macy's

Santa Claus in Macy's
Do you know what is the birthplace of Santa? Do you know where is his workshop? And where is his home away from home? If you do not have the answers I can help. It is the holiday season in New York, Christmas is in two days   - so it is high time to talk about Santa.

The Dutch brought St. Nicholas to New Amsterdam. John Pintard, the influential patriot and antiquarian who founded the New York Historical Society in 1804, promoted St. Nicholas as patron saint of both society and city. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined New York Historical Society and on St. Nicholas Day that same year, he published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker's History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character.

In 1822 Clement Moore, the Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature at the General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New York wrote a poem for his six children “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. Founded in 1817, GTS is the oldest seminary of the Episcopal Church and a leading center of theological education in the Anglican Communion. Clement Moore donated 66 tracts of land – which was his apple orchard – to become the site of the new seminary. Moore's estate, Chelsea, was on the west side of Manhattan island above Houston Street. It gave the name to this part of New York.

Moore was born in 1779. He graduated from Columbia , played the organ and was proficient in French, Latin, Italian, Hebrew, and Greek. At the age of thirty, he compiled a Hebrew lexicon, the first work of its kind in America.

General Theological Seminary
Bit only the little poem Moore wrote in 1822 to entertain his children on Christmas Eve made him famous. It was popular from the start. At least four newspapers reprinted the poem within three weeks of its first appearance.

Wikipedia wrote:" The poem, which has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American", is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. It became a popular poem which was set to music and was recorded by many artists."

Four hand-written copies of the poem are known to exist, and three are in museums, including the New-York Historical Society library.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there In this poem, St. Nicholas is portrayed as a jolly and cheerful old fellow.  

"A Visit from St. Nicholas" not only created the current Christmas tradition, but the current image of Santa Claus as well. With his "bowl full of jelly" stomach and rosy cheeks, Santa Claus was born and he was born here, in New York! The American image of Santa Claus was further elaborated by illustrator Thomas Nast at the end of nineteenth century. Nast added such details as Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa's list of the good and bad children of the world.

In 1925, since reindeer would not be possible at the North Pole, newspapers revealed that Santa Claus in fact lived in Finnish Lapland. Now the part of Lapland belongs to Russia. Many-many years ago I spend ten days in Lapland Natural Reserve in the middle of February. It was the first and the last time when I was saw northern lights.

A human-sized version of Santa Claus was depicted in a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola advertisements introduced in 1931. In modern versions of the Santa Claus legend, his toy-shop workers are elves. Rudolph, the ninth reindeer, with a red and shiny nose, was invented in 1939 by an advertising writer for the Montgomery Ward Company in Chicago.

You can find a huge red mailbox on one of the floors of the Macy's on 34th street. As part of its seventh annual "Believe" campaign, Macy's is inviting kids of all ages across the country to believe by dropping off a letter for Santa in the red Santa Mail letterbox at their local Macy's. 
 It is a charity program. Macy's launched its first Believe campaign in 2008, based on "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". 

In 1897 the eight-year-old Virginia, the daughter coroner's assistant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, wrote a letter to "The Sun", a prominent New York City newspaper, with the question : Is There a Santa Claus?.
Dear Editor— I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon 115 West Ninety Fifth Street
The New York Sun   published the editorial: "... He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood".

For each letter collected in stores and online through Christmas Eve, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to help grant wishes for children who have life-threatening medical conditions.

Macy’s in New York City was the first department store to have specially constructed holiday presentations. The customers of 1874 could see holiday window displays with a collection of porcelain dolls from around the world and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Website Mommy Poppins wrote about the windows in 2014 : The brand-new Sixth Avenue windows, Santa's Journey to the Stars, depict the retro sci-fi holiday story of young Alex and his dog, Bella, traveling the solar system with old St. Nick. The trio experiences Christmas on other planets before returning to Earth just in time for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

 Each of the six windows offers a unique seasonal scene, like the amazing toy workshop run by Santa's elves on Venus, the festively decorated red planet Mars, and the galaxy's biggest snowball fight between Uranus and Neptune. These magical windows overflow with intricate details and thousands of LED lights.

So this is the story. The only one question is unanswered. Where you can find Santa now? I can tell you the answer! You can find Santa in Santaland, on the eighth floor of Macys department store in New York. 

 Santaland,  13,000-square-foot Christmas Village overflowing with holiday treasures is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m until Christmas Eve. Macy’s in New York City was the first to feature an in-store Santa for children to visit. I'm not a kid anymore. But I visited Santaland last week and was so happy that I did it. And I can proof it with the set of pictures that I did a week ago.    Enjoy!

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn - best holiday lights in US!

Dyker Heights is quiet and upscale residential neighborhood in the southwest corner of Brooklyn in New York City. It was named after Van Dykes, one of the families in the original Dutch town of New Utrecht. It originated as a speculative luxury housing development in October 1895. Average house price last year was $750,000, 72% of people in this neighborhood are white color workers. This neighborhood is almost never in the news except the holiday season.

Starting form the end of November sidewalks are crowded and the cars are moving bumper to bumper with a speed less than five miles per hour, huge buses are waiting for the tourists , countless kids on strollers or on dad's shoulders are enjoying the Christmas lights.

Mommy Poppins site said: "While there are certainly other impressive holiday light displays in New York City, New Jersey and on Long Island, nothing in the tri-state area compares to Dyker Heights. It's not that each individual house is so spectacular (although a few truly are); it's the overwhelming number of Christmas displays in one area. It's block after block of twinkling lights, illuminated inflatables, animatronic figures, giant nutcrackers and one insanely massive Santa".

While various displays and dioramas are scattered throughout the neighborhood, it is the heart of Dyker — 12th Avenue between 82nd and 85th streets, and 84th Street between 10th and 13th avenues — that is truly winter wonderland.
New York times wrote a year ago: "But come December, Dyker Heights — 55,000 residents over one and a half square miles — takes its pride of place to a new and electrifying level.

Known as “Dyker Lights,” it’s a vivid tribute to the season, in which yards are filled with a universe of bulbs, garlands, and more than a few life-size “Nutcracker”-style soldiers. There are now 250 homes that have decked their halls, and porches and porticoes, too, said James Bonavita, the owner of B & R Christmas Decorators, which was first hired to assist in the displays in 1991 and did 60 properties this year"  One of the largest displays in the city, featuring tens of thousands of bulbs, hundreds of decorations, music is the house at 1152 84th St. that belongs to Lucy Spata. The balcony, driveway and front yard of her house have been occupied by an army of Santas, elves, angels, reindeer, and nutcrackers since mid-November

Lucy Spata house
Spata is the one who began the neighborhood sensation when she moved to Dyker Heights 30 years ago. She started in 1983 and said that at first the neighborhood didn’t embrace her. It wasn’t until a neighbor started matching her that the trend really caught on.

“When I first moved here, it looked like a funeral parlor during the winter,” Spata said. “I couldn't stand it, I need disorganization. So I said, 'I'm going to start decorating.' I started doing it a little bit at a time and everybody complained, people didn't like it, so the more they complained the more I added. Finally, they got tired and eventually they joined me.

“We add to the lights every year,” explains Spata, who plugs in the display on Thanksgiving and leaves it up until after the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as “Little Christmas,” on Jan. 6.

Every year in September Lucy takes part in the Feast of San Gennaro festival in Little Italy, New York.  This year I was on this festival and wrote about it in one of my posts. I made a picture of Lucy on one of the floats on
 the parade.

I was in Dyker Heights last Sunday and spent an hour and a half there. For sure it was not enough time for me to look at all these beautiful lights and decorations. Real Estate site redfin named Dyker Hights N1 on list of the five best neighborhoods in the nation to see holiday lights. 

You still have time to visit it!  If you drive park your car a few blocks away and walk - parking is a BIG problem. You could also use a subway D or M lines. There is about a mile walking from the nearest station. Do not forget to bring a camera!

Bergdorf Goodman windows 2014 :The Arts

Bergdorf Goodman is a luxury goods department store in Midtown Manhattan. It is the only premier luxury store situated solely in New York. Bergdorf Goodman's main store, located on the West side of Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets opened in 1928.

This year the store honored the Arts in its display this year, with windows celebrating literature, architecture, theater, painting, dance, sculpture and film. Bergdorf Goodman’s team of display artists spent 11 months planning and producing the spectacle, which will be on view through January 4, 2015.

David Hoey, the man who designed the windows said: “Early this year, the creative departments at Bergdorf Goodman selected a one-word holiday theme for 2014: Inspired (..) We decided to base each window on a major art form, drawing equally from the fine arts, performing arts and applied arts. For our main windows, we settled on literature, architecture, theater, painting, music, dance, sculpture and film. Each window would be designed independently from the others. Each would be made from its own set of materials. But the entire set of windows would constitute a sort of eight-lesson course in art appreciation. 

(...). A few spoilers: The literature window has been made entirely from fabric, soft sculpture and needlework. The architecture window has been built completely from paper and old blueprints. The theater window is a sort of apotheosis of neon. We are interested in traditional craftsmanship and the revival of old-school techniques. More than 100 artists and display artisans have contributed in some way to the completion of the windows this year. "

The "Literature" window is my favorite. The storefront "Literature" window features a library that includes books, authors and great thinkers portraits, and a dress by Naeem Kahn. The bright red display was created with soft sculpture and fiber art, as well as custom needlework that required over seven million stitches. 

 There are portraits of Shakespeare , Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Henrik Ibsen and Alexander Pushkin, quotes from Confucius and Walt Witman.

You’ll need time to look at all these : the blueprints, buildings and ionic columns in the “Architecture” window, the neon lights of “Theater”, the silvery horns trumpeting “Music”. So do not rush. Steve Jobs said: “Everything is important- that success is in the details.” By the way the Apple store is across the road from Bergdorf Goodman.



Origami tree in Museum оf Natural History

Origami Christmas Tree
Paper was invented in ancient China during the Han Dynasty more than two thousand years ago and spread slowly to the west via the Silk Road. During the 6th century, paper was introduced into Korea and then into Japan by Buddhist monks. 
 It is in Japan that paper folding became an art form and evolved into what we know today as "origami". In Japan, paper was expensive and not available to the general public that's why paper folding was limited to religious rituals and formal ceremonies. By the 17th century, play-origami was so popular in Japanese culture so that you could find kimonos decorated with paper cranes.

  The technique of paper making was introduced into Europe in the twelfth century . However at that time origami was not taken up by a large number of people as it was in Japan. By the beginning of the nineteenth century , origami was quite common across parts of Europe. There is mention of people folding paper into various shapes such as kites, boats, and birds. From Europe, origami then spread to South America and then to North America.

Origami was relatively unknown in the United States until a woman named Lillian Oppenheimer discovered the flapping bird. Lillian wanted the world to share her love of origami. She started corresponding with paperfolders around the world. Through the 50's and 60's, Lillian became more and more involved with origami, and gathered around her a small group of equally dedicated and talented people. Among those people was Michael Shall, a young teacher from Pennsylvania. With several other people he founded The Friends of The Origami Center of America. Currently, there are thousands of origami books, free origami diagrams on the internet, and origami videos.
The art form continues to evolve and develop. OrigamiUSA is headquartered in New York City's American Museum of Natural History through the generosity of the Museum Trustees. It is staffed primarily by volunteers and maintains the largest origami library in the world The Origami holiday tree is a 30 year tradition at the American Museum of Natural History. Volunteers begin folding in March to complete the hundreds of creations that will be displayed on the tree. Every year there is a different theme for the tree.

 The theme for the 2011 tree is "The Biggest & The Best" -- paying tribute to the Museum's superlative displays, including the blue whale, "The Worlds Largest Dinosaurs" exhibit, and origami space shuttles in honor of the new "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration" exhibit.

The theme for the 2012 tree was "Museum Collections" with 500 origami animals adorning the tree, each in groups. The 2013 year’s theme was Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful. It was inspired by the museum’s Power of Poison exhibit.
Museum of Natural History

There were hundreds of origami ornaments on the tree including snakes, tarantulas, poisonous frogs and characters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This year’s theme is Origami Night at the Museum inspired by the blockbuster Night at the Museum movies so expect paper renderings of Teddy Roosevelt and dinosaurs. It took about five months to fold all the origami ornaments that hang on the tree. The tree is on view on the first floor of American Museum of Natural History till January 5, 2015