Trinity’s Divine Stash


There was never any doubt that Trinity Church was quite well-to-do. In fact, the church’s total assets are currently estimated to be around $2 billion in well-to-do-ness. While this divine nest egg seems rather paltry when compared to the Vatican‘s inestimable store of heavenly manna, it still runs contrary to the essence of a Protestant Episcopalianism; the presumed values that, beyond King Henry VIII’s personal idiosyncrasies, led to its establishment.

When the church was founded in 1705, Queen Anne of England bestowed 215 acres of Manhattan farmland to the church. Trinity Church obviously took that profitable ball and ran with it for over three centuries. The New York Times explains that the 215 acres has since been parlayed into 5.5 million square feet of commercial real estate with an estimated value of more than $2 billion. This brought in $158 million in revenue in 2011, with philanthropic causes receiving only $3 million compared to$2.5 million going to  its music program.

This is what compelled a former parishioner to bring a lawsuit against the church that caused quite a stir amongst the congregation.

“I felt that the church was being too corporate and wasn’t acting on its values,” he says. The church’s rector, James Cooper, says Trinity Church is striking the right balance. But Cooper—who makes roughly $1.3 million a year in total compensation—is a controversial figure; last year a resigning vestry member said he had “created a glaring atmosphere of deceit.”

Personally, I know that Trinity Church’s famed Christmas presentation of Handel’s Messiah will sound forever off-key to this blogger from now on. Indeed, after all is said and done, it appears cozily appropriate that the church is situated right at the end of Wall Street.

via Newser


The Telescope Man of Union Square


The infinite twinkling of the stars, not the temporal glistening of neon, are what enraptured him. The unknown beauty of planets, moons and galaxies, not the schematic towering of skyscrapers, engaged his attention with awestruck scrutiny. Comets and asteroids, their paths through the untold vastness of space, absorbed his imagination and captivated him. For this was Arthur F. Nursey, aka the “Telescope Man,” who lived and viewed the universe in the early part of the 20th century.

I chanced upon Nursey while sifting through the New York Times archives (08/06/1932)…in a way, similar to Nursey’s own sifting through space. But I had heard of him long ago from my grandmother who told me of this little man that I had, until now, faintly remembered.

He was a small, gentle-looking man and, in today’s terms, perhaps “nerdy” in appearance. For thirty years he and his beloved telescope were fixtures in Union Square (Manhattan). He solicited passer-byes to “gaze upon the wonders of the universe, see the mountains of the moon, the pale splendor of the pole star and the beauty of Saturn…all, ladies and gentlemen, for a dime.” A small but sizable number of New Yorkers would take Nursey up on his offer and gaze through the metallic tube of his telescope, not really understanding what they saw but realizing that it was marvelous; a bargain at ten-cents.

This was Nursey’s sole means of income; rather small for a onetime Oxford student who was trained in astrophysics and astronomy. He lived alone at 224 East 21st Street and when rain or snow or cloudy weather would make star-gazing impossible, his typewriter could be heard deep into the night writing scientific treatises; at other times, poring over maps and charts, delving into various tomes, to learn yet more. He would have been a credit to any scholastic or scientific institution but preferred to make Union Square his classroom, the ordinary man and woman his student.

On the morning of August 1, 1932 he left his apartment to buy breakfast. Walking along First Avenue, he became, as usual, absorbed in thought. According to the Times, he “raised his head, his eyes turning in quest of a cloud or a mist that might interfere with his night’s work and, with his mind so occupied, he stepped off the curb….Brakes squealed, there was a thud, a smothered cry of pain.”

Nursey, 71 years old, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital. He was critically injured and dying but remained conscious throughout his remaining moments. His only concern was for the safety of his telescope. Attendants assured the astronomer that it was safe and to further comfort him had his apartment door padlocked. The Times ends Nursey’s story by stating that “the padlock remains on the door, his body is in the city morgue.”

An Aside to The Connection


2.21.1971 – On location during “French Connection” – Detective First Grade Sonny Grosso (lL) and Detective First Grade Eddie Egan (R) with actors Roy Scheider (2nd left) and Gene Hackman

via Brooklyn New York Baby Boomers and Everyone Who Loves Brooklyn

The two real life cops portrayed in the film, Egan and Grosso, used their clout (I would guess, Tammany Hall-inspired) as honored detectives to secure dubious and flimsy filming permits, especially for the famous car chase scene.

Several minor yet actual car crashes occurred as a result of the loosely coordinated takes along 86th Street, New Utrecht Avenue, and Stillwell Avenue ( the outer edges of my childhood neighborhood). These real life crashes were included in the final film for your viewing enjoyment. Speed and distance (from where the chase begins to its climax) is a camera trick; such purling aspects are nonexistent when actually driving in that area…whether or not you’re Popeye Doyle.


see Filmmaking at 90 Miles Per Hour,  NY Times


That’s No Lady. It’s Scott Fitzgerald!

fitzgerald in drag

The photos above were taken during the novelist’s Princeton days, where he played an active role in The Princeton Triangle Club, writing scripts and lyrics for what’s now the oldest collegiate musical-comedy troupe in the US. After Fitzgerald failed several exams, he was barred from performing in the club’s 1916 musical production, The Evil Eye!. A shame, given that he co-wrote the script. But F. Scott wasn’t going to be completely denied. Yes, he posed in drag for a publicity photo that appeared in The New York Times on January 2, 1916. The newspaper called him “the most beautiful” girl in the show.

Source: Open Culture

A Ball in Time Again

times square

The New Year‘s Eve celebration in Times Square debuted in 1904 as a ceremony commemorating the official opening of the New York Times‘ new headquarters at One Times Square. Located at the triangular intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street in Manhattan, it was the second-tallest building in NYC in those days, towering over the small spot of land the newspaper named after itself.

An unprecedented celebration unfolded on that distant New Year’s Eve. Adolph Ochs (the then publisher of the paper) “spared no expense to ensure a party for the ages.” Fireworks, rattles and noisemakers from over 200,000 attendees were the culmination of an entire day of street festivals. The New York Times‘ description of the occasion paints a rapturous picture: “From base to dome the giant structure was alight–a torch to usher in the newborn year….” The commemoration was quickly turned into a traditional New Year’s Eve event.

The crowds at Trinity Church, then the setting for New Year’s Eve celebrations, instantly found their way uptown to a new and (down to the present day) more dynamic setting at Times Square; of course, it all became bigger and more high-tech over the years.

(By the way, this year’s ball looks suspiciously like last year’s ball…but the years are passing by so quickly that it all looks like one big, blurry Ball of Confusion; one ball–or strike or home run, for that matter–is just as good as any other ball.)

That Old Time Campaigning


Politics has forever been the skillful blend of sense and artifice; but it’s delightful to see Governor Cuomo give us New Yorkers a humorous take on the old abracadabra. Drawing inspiration from William Jennings Bryan (a master of distinguished rhetoric without substantive purpose ), Cuomo designed his work in the manner of Bryan’s presidential campaign poster of 1900.

And for this holiday season, Mr. Cuomo commissioned a reinterpretation of the classic poster, representing what he sees as his own battles as governor. The octopus is now a sea monster, writhing in the Hudson River, with three heads, labeled corruption, bureaucracy and apathy. Swimming in the river are striped bass (a nod to Mr. Cuomo’s affection for fishing), and a truck passing by bears the message “NY Yogurt: World’s Best” (a reference to the governor’s advocacy for the state’s fast-growing Greek-style yogurt industry).


A campaign poster from William Jennings Bryan’s 1900 presidential bid.

Such posters were the “televised ads” (sans television), the “radio sound bites” (sans radio), of their day; serving to catch the attention of prospective voters before their common sense would take hold. Then again, these posters were arguably much more imaginative and much more colorful than most of the dazzling dissonance of today’s high-tech sound and fury.

Source: {read more} NY Times

Threnody For A Dying Piano

solopiano2 On a cold winter morning, a lone piano stands curbside in New York City. Passersby slow, stop, and play. Some play well. All day long they collect and disperse, and into the night they measure and shove and deliberate. What if…? Can we take it? Who abandons a piano?

Plinking slightly out-of-tune over the white noise of Broadway’s cars, buses, trucks, and sirens, the piano awaits its fate. Solo, Piano – NYC is a 5-minute film [NY Times video] of the last 24 hours of a once-wanted piano. Source: Anthony Sherin

As a musician (a pianist; guitarist, too), I found this clip to be extremely poignant; a provocative elegy that is intensified simply by being understated.

A piano; an apparatus of wood, steel and ivory…but much more than that. Sharing an integral part of the human spirit, conjoined in music–even at the end, its last feeble, desperate, frantic notes clutch at harmony–; emanations of an impermanent humanity that crumbles towards an orphic eternity. Leaving  behind silence…the faint murmuring of, perhaps, untold failures and imminent greatness in its wake.

Sweetly Swarming

NYC beekeepers can finally emerge from their secret honeycombs and practice their exotic art with impunity. In 2010, a law that prohibited beekeeping within the city limits was overturned, to the delight of urban busy bees skilled in the secrets of swarm and hive.

Previously, the city’s health code had placed honeybees in the same category as about 100 other creatures deemed too hazardous to be kept in town, including ferrets and poisonous snakes. Bees do sting, after all, and their venom can be dangerous to some people with severe allergies. Brooklyn Feed

For decades, the existence of a beekeeping ban and of beekeepers was unknown to most New Yorkers. The ban was lightly if ever enforced by city officials while beekeepers busily and quietly tended hives on rooftops and gardens “in either defiance or ignorance of the regulations.” The move to bring beekeeping out in the open gained momentum when First Lady Michelle Obama installed a hive on the White House’s South Lawn.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the city lifted the ban for only one type of bee: the honey-producing Apis mellifera. Wasps, hornets and related, less-than cuddly creatures are still banned.

Source: NYT (photo gallery)- On Roofs and in Gardens, the Beehives of New York

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