The Orchid Show 2018

The Orchid Show celebrates its 16th year at The New York Botanical Garden. Each year, The Orchid Show transforms The New York Botanical Garden  with thousands of orchids on display. Held in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the display features blooming orchids by the hundreds in lush tropical environments. This year all installations are  crafted by Daniel Ost, Belgian floral artist, floral designer and garden architect.

60-year-old Belgian owns flower shops in both Brussels and his home town of Sint-Niklaas, close to the Dutch border. He provides arrangements for prestigious individuals, events and occasions. Ost   has received numerous awards and accolades in both Europe and in the Far East.
 Ost trained in Belgium and the Netherlands before visiting Japan for the first time in 1983 when he befriended Noboru Kurisaki, one of the most prominent grand masters of ikebana, who became his mentor and teacher. He taught Ost that a single flower used the right way can have more impact than thousands of flowers used en masse.

  The artist said:  “I get lots of e-mails and letters from people saying that my work makes them emotional.   They’re nice, but I’m also afraid of reading them because I always want to keep my feet on the ground, like a child who is playing. The title on my card is bloembinder. It’s an old Flemish word that’s hard to translate. It refers to what you do to bind flowers together, but it’s not like ‘florist’ in English or ‘fleuriste’ in French. It’s much more beautiful than that." 

Orchid Show visitors may select from thousands of top-quality orchids, from exotic, hard-tofind specimens for connoisseurs to elegant yet easy-to-grow varieties for beginners, available for purchase at NYBG Shop.   The Orchid Show is on view from Saturday, March 3 through Sunday, April 22.

The Fearless Girl And Charging Bull

In the early morning hours of Friday, December 15, 1989, Italian artist Arturo Di Modica with his  friends dropped a half ton bronze sculpture of the Charging Bull   on Broad Street right in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The sculpture was removed at the end of the day and found a permanent home  close by at Bowling Green. The bull is a symbol of a strong stock market in which participants are optimistic and confident.

A year ago, 28 years after the bull statue was installed,  between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Tuesday, March  8 2017 a bull got a   neighbor - a 50-inch defiant little girl, cast in bronze.   The statue was installed by  State Street Global Advisors, investment management division of State Street Corporation.
"We got a permit with the city," says Anne McNally, vice president of public relations for State Street, who said the idea for the statue was cooked up jointly by the firm's investment and marketing teams. The permit is for a week, but given the girl's popularity,   permit was  extended to 30 days.

“What this girl represents is the present, but also the future,”  said Mr. Tisdalle,      chief marketing officer at  State Street,  said in an interview,-   “She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note". 

  The statue , titled “The Fearless Girl", was  sculpted by  Kristen Visbal,  American sculptor living and working in Lewes, Delaware.
The stunt, timed to International Women’s Day on Wednesday, is meant to symbolize the power of women in leadership. More specifically, it’s part of a campaign by State Street Global Advisors to emphasize that companies with women in top positions perform better financially.

 Sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who created Charging Bull, has argued that the Fearless Girl statue corrupts the original meaning of his creation. 
An attorney for Di Modica, Norman Siegel, said last April:
The placement of the statue of the young girl in opposition to ‘Charging Bull’ has undermined the integrity and modified the ‘Charging Bull. The ‘Charging Bull’ no longer carries a positive, optimistic message. Rather it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat.”
I completely agree with  Siegel : Fearless Girl has transformed the meaning of the bull in a way the artist never intended.

But Mayor de Blasio didn’t care about that. In fact, he pointedly dumped all over Di Modica’s complaints, suggesting they were sexist: last April he tweeted: Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless

 And by the way in October 2017 State Street Corp. ( the sponsor of  he Fearless Girl statue)   had agreed in  to a $5 million settlement over allegations that it underpaid hundreds of female and minority employees.

Originally given a one-month permit, Mayor de Blasio decided to let statue stay in place until March 8, 2018. Time is running out for "Fearless Girl."

Fans started calling for the statue to stay in place forever. More than 38,000 people have signed a petition to make the statue of the defiant girl, staring up at the towering bull with her hands on her hips, a permanent fixture. 

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio said that the city is still “discussing various approaches to ensure this statue continues to be part of the city’s civic life. The message of the Fearless Girl has resonated with New Yorkers and visitors alike.”

There are rumors  if the girl goes away form Broadway, she'll be taking the iconic Wall Street bull statue she co-opted with her.

 Almost thirty years ago Arthur Piccolo, the current president of the Bowling Green Association,  convinced    Di Modica, the owner ant the author of  the charging Bull,  that the nation’s first public park would be a perfect home for the now iconic statue.

 Piccolo condemned any effort to move Charging Bull away from Bowling Green, while calling for Fearless Girl’s removal from the public park, describing the feminist icon as little more than a commercial for an out-of-state investment firm. “It’s a marketing tool!” he said.

“The mayor of the city has no right to move the bull,” said the Bowling Green advocate. “I would strongly advise him not to put up with that girl being permanently in front of it — it destroys the purpose of the bull to serve a private company.”

19th annual Lunar New Year Parade

The Chinese New Year Parade is one of the biggest spectacles of Chinatown. New York City is  home to the highest Chinese-American population of any U.S. city. With an estimated population of 90,000 to 100,000 people, Manhattan's Chinatown is one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves. 
The population density in Chinatown is 37% higher than New York and the median age in Chinatown is 13% higher than New York.In Chinatown 76.84% of the population is Asian.

2018 is the "Year of the Dog" according to the Chinese twelve-animal zodiac system. The Dog  is the 11th of a dozen zodiac animals in the Chinese calendar.
As one myth has it, the Jade Emperor decided to place animals in the order they arrived at his party. The monkey, rooster and dog were in another country helping a god defeat evil spirits, and afterward they headed to the emperor’s party together. Since they arrived at the same time, the emperor decided to order them based on when they met the other country’s god. The dog became 11th, after the rooster, whose year was 2017.
The Year of the Dog kicked off earlier this month,  on February 16, 2018. But the city's big party for Lunar New Year was today, on  a rainy Sunday afternoon. 

Skating in Central Park. Wollman Rink and Donald Trump.

Wollman Rink is a public ice rink in the southern part of Central Park, close  to the famous hotel Plaza, Tiffany and Trump tower.
Before Central Park was completed in the 1870s,  there was a  lake in the  park,  connected  to the City's water system,  that was used for skating.  On October 13, 1857  the Board of Commissioners of Central Park offered prizes of four hundred to two thousand dollars for the four best proposals for "laying out the park."  Contest entries came from both professional and amateur designers. First prize went to plan 33, the "Greensward" plan, submitted by the park's superintendent, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the English-born architect Calvert Vaux. On this plan the lake was labeled "skating pond".  In order to ensure proper skating conditions, the Lake was drained to a level that eased the freezing of ice each year.

The world's first artificial ice rink was made in London in December 1841. But it wasn't made from frozen water: the means to freeze large amounts of liquid simply didn't exist at the time.
The world's first mechanically frozen ice rink was the Glaciarium, opened by John Gamgee in a tent in a small building just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, London, on 7 January 1876.
The first  indoor rink  in New York City with a large ice surface of 20,000 square feet for ice skating was open in 1894 in Ice Palace at Lexington and 107th Street. This was the first of three artificial ice rinks that were operating in New York City during the mid-1890’s.
Two years later st. Nicholas Rink, the home of the St. Nicholas Hockey Club of the American Amateur Hockey League,  was open on the northeast corner of 66th Street and Columbus Avenue. The  builders included Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Jacob Astor.
In 1949, philanthropist Kate Wollman donated funds for a new kind of "artificial rink" to be built in Central Park.  Ms. Wollman gave $600,000 toward the construction of Wollman Rink as a memorial to her parents, Mr. J. Wollman and Mrs. Bettie Wollman, and her four brothers.
 The rink has been a success from the day it opened – over 300,000 skaters glided across the ice in its first year of operation. For the next 30 years  Wollman Memorial Rink was one of New York's most picturesque seasonal joys.  This rink has been included as a backdrop for numerous NYC movies, including “Serendipity” and “Love Story.”

The rink was closed in 1980 for a proposed two years of renovations.  The renovations were suppose to take 2.5 years, but 6 years later the rink was still in disrepair. The project was delayed repeatedly by errors in design and planning, and in 1986   it was halted because of leaks in its new refrigeration system. The rink was an emblem of civic dysfunction and    the city seemingly had no idea how fix it.  

In June 1986  the 39-year-old Donald Trump  made an offer to Mayor Ed Koch to rebuild the Wollman Memorial Skating Rink in Central Park at the city's expense.   He brashly offered to reopen the rink before Christmas.    “If Koch doesn’t like this offer,” Trump said, “then let him have the same people who have built it for the last six years do it for the next six years.”  
 Donald Trump said in an interview with the Times, "I don't want my name attached to losers. So far the Wollman Rink has been one of the great losers. I'll make it a winner.''
The offer was accepted and  Trump finished the job in just four months at a final cost 25% below the budget.   “I guess it says a lot about the city,” Trump said at the grand opening of the Wollman  Rink, “but I don’t have to say what it says.”

Last week, February 12 2018,  President   Donald Trump mentioned his successful Wollman Rink renovation from 1986 at a press conference for his proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
 "It's really no different" than roads or bridges, he said of fixing the rink. A key feature of Trump's proposed infrastructure plan is a reduction of regulatory red tape, streamlining projects typically given a timeline of five to 10 years down to two.

The Wollman Rink is open  for skating  from late October to early April  weather permitting .  The price  for the skating   is high: $19( weekend) plus $9 for rent plus $5 for the locker. And meanwhile there is  a place in Central Park where you  can skate absolutely free if you  have  your own skates!   Located on the East Side between 72nd and 75th Streets, Conservatory Water is open for free ice skating when conditions permit and the ice is consistently at least six inches thick. 

Roosvelt Island smallpox hospital ruins

Smallpox has a reputation as one of the worst diseases in history: it spreads quickly through the human population and kills about one-third of those infected. Smallpox  had killed millions since it first swirled out of ancient Egypt. Some experts say that over the centuries it has killed more people than all other infectious diseases combined.  The disease killed Louis XV of France and other European monarchs. Queen Elizabeth I had the disease as a child and wore heavy make-up to conceal her pockmarks.

Renwick Smallpox Hospital   opened its doors in 1856 on Roosevelt Island,  the stretch of land on the East River between Manhattan and Queens was once known as Welfare Island because of its hospitals and institutional buildings. Now   Roosevelt Island is accessible from Manhattan via tramway , subway and ferry . There is a bridge connecting Roosevelt Island   and Queens. 

But back in 1800 the island was very remote.  In colonial days, the Blackwell family, prosperous neighbors from across the river in Queens, owned Roosevelt Island , where they farmed and quarried.  In the early 1800s the family sought to sell the island, and around 1825 it was purchased by the City of New York.
Although vaccination against smallpox was a common medical practice by the mid-19th century, the disease continued to plague New York City. The distance between the island and New York City  made it a perfect quarantine area for patients infected with smallpox.

So when the hospital was open  in 1856 it was  completely cordoned off from the rest of the area by waterways.  Hospital was built by American architect  James Renwick Jr ., one of the most successful American architects of his time.

When he was only 25 years old,  he   received his first major commission  when he won the competition to design Grace Church in New York City. Three years later  Renwick   won the competition for the design of the Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington, DC.  His finest achievement, and his best-known building is St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 51st Street.

The total cost of the construction of the hospital  was thirty-eight thousand dollars, roughly the equivalent of a million dollars today. The chairman Isaac Townsend, in his opening remarks on December 18, 1856, said: “Let us therefore rest, regardless of the ignorant censure of political and factious demagogues, who easily raise the idle cry of a wasteful expenditure of money. In truth, it would have been a wise economy to have erected a building much larger.”
The Smallpox Hospital accommodated one hundred patients with charity cases in wards on the lower floors, while a series of private rooms on the upper floors was devoted for paying patients.

The hospital treated 7,000 patients annually, and roughly 450  would die each year. That means that upwards of 13.5 thousand deaths due to smallpox happened within the walls of the Renwick during its 30 years as a hospital.
In 1875  the patients  with smallpox   other contagious diseases were transferred to  the new building  built  on North Brothers Island , located in New York City's East River between the Bronx and Rikers Island.  North Brother Island   is now uninhabited and designated as a bird sanctuary. 

 Renwick Smallpox Hospital   was converted  into a home for the nurses as well as the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School.  This transition also reduced the danger of the disease spreading to Blackwell’s Island population, which by the end of the century numbered some seven thousand.
The school in the 1950’s was relocated to new buildings in Queens. The main hospital building as well as the former Smallpox Hospital were abandoned.
The ruins were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and were granted New York City Landmark status four years later. Currently, you're not able to go inside as it's not structurally sound and there is a fence which surrounds it. The Gothic Revival architectural style   does add to its beauty and mysteriousness.