Sunday in the Park with George III


It’s no secret that Central Park is rife with many fascinating and historic secrets. However, a newly divulged tidbit from that verdant green went beyond the fascinating and historic towards the stratum of the explosive.

From the 1860s until today, Central Park had an eighteenth century cannon on public display…fully loaded with ball and 800 grams of gunpowder! In short, all dressed up and ready to go kaboom!

The Revolutionary War-era gun was one of two being stored at the park’s Ramble shed near the 79th Street transverse. Workers were cleaning the cannon (who were twice fortunate if they weren’t smoking at the time) when they soon discovered that it was still loaded. Naturally, they quickly called the police who arrived along with, I’d presume, an armada of other emergency personnel in search of a time-killer hangout.

In fairness, it never occurred to anyone that the cannon, which is said to be at least 233 years old, would still pose a threat. The field piece was already more than 90 years old when it was donated to the park, apparently by someone who’d salvaged it from a sunken British frigate in the East River. It was put on display at the park, and capped with concrete. No one even considered the possibility that British sailors had loaded and sealed it before their ship went down.

For John Moore, who is working on a book called “The Secrets of Central Park,” this is a new one.

“This is an amazing surprise. It was there for so many years and people were sitting on it when it was a loaded cannon,” Moore said.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! He’s right. Before being moved to the shelter of the Conservancy in 1996, the cannon sat outside amongst unsuspecting park-goers. Many would lounge about/ upon the apparently dormant artillery piece (this blogger being one of them) basking in the fresh air. I remember those moments with fondness, casually perched atop that old relic while smoking a cigarette, totally unaware of how close I may have come to getting a bang out of it.

CBS New York


Dukedoms For History

old new york1

142 West 11th Street

An article in New York Magazine titled Old New York features nine nineteenth century properties which tap into NYC’s real estate history…as well as into its current fashion-crazed, financial cavalierness. In the world of real estate, history comes at a price (a very dear price) and nostalgia is merely a selling point for those who could afford such nostalgia. I’ve chosen two of these properties as an example of the high cost of “old world” living in present-day NYC.

The Italianate townhouse (built in 1855) at 142 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village exorbitantly belies its 19th century roots for the 21st century, befitting the Old New York connoisseur; at least, in one room of this quaintly voguish duplex. The cast-iron rose moldings, a marble fireplace and Pier mirrors came with the house, as does its front hallway with a mahogany banister that has been there since the house’s inception. Of course, the townhouse has a very modern price tag: $7.995 million; a very tidy sum for select happiest millionaires (or billionaires) who enjoy existing as combination homeowners and museum curators.

Old New York2

15 Sutton Place

At 15 Sutton Place (built in 1899) in Sutton Square stands another remnant of olden days at today’s big-ticket prices. This building is part of an enclave by the East River (a waterside view, in today’s NYC, could turn a cardboard box into a palace) and is packed with the requisite sales incentives: period details. The neo-Georgian townhouse has not one but four original fireplace mantels, as well as decorative moldings, arched doorways, a wrought-iron gate and “more” (which usually means more of the same to a redundant degree).  Nevertheless, it’s a steal (depending on who, buyer or seller, is being robbed) at $11.5 million dollars.

A comment from coolbirth on this article: “If only they weren’t so excruciatingly expensive, I’m sure I could purchase a door knob or two or perhaps, even lay claim to a step on a stoop.”

What’s The Buzz! Where’s The Bursting in Air!

This Is How Many New Yorkers Saw The Fireworks Last Night

From Gowanus

Phot by Ryeofthetiger

From a 4th floor walkup in Park Slope. Photo by Erin S. [I wonder who she is!]

From Greenpoint. Photo by Valerio Bruscianelli

Last night, for the fourth year in a row, Macy’s held their 4th of July fireworks display over the Hudson River, a display that many New Yorkers—particularly residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and the east side of Manhattan—cannot see. Prior to this year’s event, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced their online petition to bring the fireworks back to the East River—something even Mayor Bloomberg favors, at least on alternating years. {read more} The Gothamist

After a short while, my wife and I gave up and went inside to watch Nicholas Hytner‘s film The Madness of King George; a much cooler, thought-provoking experience.

Big Winds, Big Seas, Big Gates


Scientists are predicting that New York City will soon be hit by the Big One: not an earthquake, but a massive and deadly hurricane that will rival if not surpass Hurricane Katrina. Situated as it is on the globe, hurricanes that threaten the city are usually dissipated by the cold waters of the Atlantic; but those hurricanes that do reach this far north are also traveling at a faster rate of speed. What would be a Category 2 hurricane in a southern state like Florida or Georgia, would become a Category 5 if it were to make landfall in New York.

The worst of worst case scenarios would occur if one of these storms directly entered New York Harbor. Together with Long Island to the east and New Jersey to the west, the harbor forms an L-shaped region that scientists call “the funnel.” The hurricane’s energy would hit a “dead-end” and become further intensified by the turbulent waters of the East River and Hudson River at its head, while propelled by the equally turbulent waters of the Narrows at its center; the storm essentially becoming a whirlpool within a whirlpool.

A “Bernoulli Effect” would occur with skyscrapers amplifying the storm’s  winds, blasting through areas such as Central Park with tree-shredding torrents of air. Water levels would rise to 13 feet in a single hour and continue climbing until they reached 25 or more feet in many low-lying areas. Manhattan Island  would “divide” into “two islands” at Canal Street, which is low ground and become completely submerged, according to a team of Columbia University engineers… a “canal” would indeed run along Canal Street.

The financial district would be left completely isolated, and even higher ground in Manhattan’s uptown would see water levels of 18 feet. Subways would be flooded, roads and airports closed, power failures citywide, telephone and internet connections down, basic drinking water contaminated due to ocean-inundated treatment plants, etc….in short, New York City would be brought to a virtual standstill, unprecedented in its history.

To prevent or to lessen such a day of wrath like this from occurring here, Malcolm Bowman, professor of oceanography at Stony Brook, proposed the construction of massive hydraulic gates situated at three strategic points encircling New York Harbor: one at the East River off of LaGuardia Airport, another at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, off of Staten Island, and a main gate at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In the event of a serious hurricane endangering NYC, these gates (to put it quite simply) would be activated and rise 25 feet above the water’s surface and, hopefully,  block the hurricane’s storm surge.

This project would be the most ambitious and most expensive in the city’s history. Bowman insists that installation of this gate system is the only thing that could prevent the disastrous effects of a direct hit from a major hurricane. He was endeavoring to marshal the political will and financial support for his proposal, and his meetings with Port Authority officials in 2001 were going well, when 9/11 occurred…”And you know what happened next,” Bowman shrugged.

Nevertheless, my wife and I are looking on the bright side of it all: we’ve always wanted to go whitewater rafting without leaving home.

Source: “Hitting the Funnel” — The Five-Year Forecast  by Clive Thompson

Lois Lane Affluence

Ten Gracie Square is one of Manhattan’s Good Buildings: a benchmark of the ultra grandest in grand elegance for those maintaining a crème de la crème existence. There are only 42 such residences in the borough (most of them on Fifth and Park Avenues), where the very richest, if not always the very famous, play house.

However, now that the city’ waterfront property and various nostalgia is a la mode, Ten Gracie Square is a cut above its rivals for three reasons: it overlooks the East River, Madame Chiang Kai-shek had lived there (er…okay) and, perhaps most importantly, it was also the home of Lois Lane.

Long before actresses such as Margot Kidder and Terri Hatcher played the perky love interest to Planet Krypton’s “Man of Steel,” an actress by the name of Joan Alexander originated the role of Lois Lane on radio. She played Lois in over 1,600 The Adventures of Superman episodes during the 1940s and early 1950s. Even though some argue that she wasn’t the first actress cast, she began early in the series (1940) and Lois Lane became Alexander’s signature role.

Joan Alexander at Mutual Broadcasting System

Whereas her on the airwaves life with Superman may have been dynamic, Alexander’s off the airwaves life was equally dynamic when she married her second husband Arthur Stanton in 1954. Stanton was chairman of World-Wide Volkswagen, based in Orangeburg, New York, which helped introduce the Volkswagen Beetle to the USA. The couple lived a “Gatsby-esque existence” at their home in East Hampton, NY and in their apartment in Manhattan: Ten Gracie Square.

The five-bedroom apartment, which was listed by Corcoran‘s Patricia Cliff, who declined to comment via her assistant, is “a grand 11-room, semi-duplex home, which abounds in architectural detail.” The upper level of the apartment features two master bedrooms both with “bathrooms en suite” and one with a wood-burning fireplace. “Most rooms have sweeping views of the East River and/or Carl Schurz Park,” according to the listing, as well as an “abundance of prewar detail” amid the interior, including a 12-foot entrance gallery.

Alexander passed away on May 21, 2009 at the age of 92 (Stanton died in 1987). Her apartment at Ten Gracie Square was put on sale with a $7.995 million asking price; it closed short of the asking and is now owned by Clark Murphy of Russell Reynolds Associates.

Finally, I haven’t the slightest idea why I found this important enough to write about; a topic of passing interest, at best. But perhaps some brief attention must be paid to superhero-related affairs, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial, to while away a moment or two of reality.

Source: New York Observer

Guess The Color

While half of New York City is currently engaged in modernization the other half is engaged in a relatively new endeavor: historical restoration. While the old is being rapidly replaced by the (arguably) new and improved, the old is also gaining a new lease on life due to its historic or nostalgic significance. Enormous sums of money are being spent towards restoring abandoned buildings and factories, tottering neighborhoods and subway stations, for their olde worlde charm. When one of NYC’s landmarks is under restoration, and when that landmark happens to be the Brooklyn Bridge, developers spend an unlimited amount of time, energy and taxpayers’ money in achieving their restorative goals.

The Brooklyn Bridge is in the process of being repainted; a massive endeavor, not only for the scope of the project, but for what it seeks to accomplish: restoring the bridge to its “original” color. Contrary to what may be popular opinion or apathetic acceptance, the present-day coloring of the bridge IS NOT its original look. The bridge’s current appearance comes from nearly 130 years of weather-beaten days and nights; the color of rigorous age but not of rigorous youth. The only problem is that no one really knows exactly what colors the Brooklyn Bridge wore in its youthful, original days.

Early accounts say that the bridge’s first paint job was a shade of red — Rawlins Red, a pigment derived from iron oxide mined near Rawlins, Wyoming. And there appears some striking visual evidence to support this claim: a Currier and Ives print circa 1877 — six years before the bridge opened — depicts the span painted a glorious blood red.

Experts ranging from Rans Baker, a research historian at the Carbon County Museum in (aforementioned) Rawlins, Wyoming to Lisi De Bourbon, a spokeswoman at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, have their favorite if conflicting ideas regarding the bridge’s original colors. Baker, along with the citizens of Rawlings, take special pride in knowing that the town provided the paint (an iron oxide or hematite) for “one of the country’s most-astounding architectural achievements.

However, it’s not known for sure if this is true and/or what coloring this iron oxide blended paint would’ve looked like because the companies that furnished it are long since gone. The Landmarks Preservation Commission claims are as doubtful as Baker’s; the research they’ve attempted has led to a dead end. They’re claiming that they’ve traced the color to something called “Brooklyn Bridge Tan” (coined by the Department of Transportation); however, the exact name of the original paint colors is absent from the agency’s files. “That means ‘Brooklyn Bridge Tan’ — the Landmarks approved name — may be as real as ‘Santa Claus Red’ or ‘Tooth Fairy Pink.’”

Read more about this “true cover up.”  Brooklyn Paper