Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Have I Got A Bridge to Sell You!

It may not be as well known as its older sister, the Brooklyn Bridge, but the Manhattan Bridge also offers great city views and an interesting 15 minute walk-across. In fact, one could argue that the Manhattan Bridge can boast the superior view because it offers the walker a stunning view of the Brooklyn Bridge against downtown Manhattan.

Walking across this bridge last week the thing that I found the most exciting is the birds-eye views of Chinatown and the Lower East Side before the bridge even rises above the the East River. The Manhattan Bridge picks up relatively far inland - at Bowery and Canal in the heart of Chinatown. This makes for some great voyeuristic sightseeing as you get to peer into the windows, rooftops and colorful streets of Chinatown below.

Continuing on you are then treated to the aforementioned views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as you stand above the East River. On the Brooklyn side you get the parallel pleasure of peering down over DUMBO. Note the difference in character of the neighborhoods on each side of the water.

The one downside that I must mention is the constant noise of car traffic and subway trains that share the bridge with pedestrians. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, where there is a bike and foot path above the cars, on the Manhattan Bridge the cars, subway and walkers traverse in relatively close quarters on the same level. So bring earplugs if you must, but don't miss this bridge less traveled.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Highline

PHOTO BY Lindsay Kurz

Bursting on to the scene at the turn of the century (that's the recent turn of the century, folks) the Meatpacking District was just too cool. With trendy clothing boutiques and faux dive bars popping up next door to every meat packaging house left, the turn around was so quick one wondered whether the lingering smell of beef carcasses was supposed to be part of the ambiance.

The Meatpacking District today is still, of course, cool, but not like it was seven or eight years ago. The darling of the neighborhood, the Chelsea Market is still visited but it is not talked about as much as it once was. Evidence of this slowdown in hype is the simple fact that the meatpacking operations were not completely "gentrified-out," as you will notice if ever you visit the area in the early mornings and stumble across the refrigerated vans unloading their goods.

However, this summer the Meatpacking District is cool again. With the opening of the much-anticipated (semi-urban-legend) Highline last month, the buzz is again re-focused on this neighborhood. (On the opening weekend in June the queue to see the Highline stretched around the block).

In keeping with the neighborhood's self image, the Highline is an exhibit in sleek lines, steel and concrete and a capricious pattern of gardens. Not wanting to be mistaken as trying to hard, the garden colors are variations on lavender, sage and white, making the statement that its design does not need to rely on flashy, overly-saturated flowers for effect. The vegetation almost feels alpine, with aspen trees and grasses, - giving the effect of a Colorado ski resort in the springtime.

The Highline currently stretches from Gansevoort street to 20th Street (above 10th Ave.) Along the way the elevated path swerves left and right and even meanders through a newly constructed apartment building. With views of the Hudson River to the west and the neighborhood streets below, you'll have to admit that indeed, this is cool.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Art of the Book

A peek into the studios at The Center for Book ArtsThe storefront of Printed Matter, Inc.

I love books. And I also love art. And, like peanut butter and chocolate, when books and art cross it makes for something even better! Think illuminated manuscripts, graphic novels, illustrated diaries, sketchbooks. . . there is something very appealing about the the combination of the written word and graphics. As well as I like the succinct presentation of art in a bound codex, allowing the viewer/reader to flip through pages, discovering multiple levels of art within one piece.

In today's post I am happy to introduce two places in Manhattan each centering around book arts. The first is The Center for Book Arts. The Center for Book Arts is a multi-purpose book artist's studio, education center, exhibition space and center for resources on everything related to bookmaking. They have classes in bookbinding, printing, letterpress, paper making, paper marbling, leather tooling, typography, collage making, paper cutting, illumination, and so much more. They also host lectures on book-related topics, hold book-related events or invite guest artists in to share their work.

Artists can rent studio space at the center, giving them access to all the printing and book binding equipment and supplies. There is a small gallery at the Center, with a fascinating rotating exhibit of book art. A visit to the Center offers a glimpse at the current exhibit, a small book shop offering rare and limited edition handmade art and poetry books, and a peek into the bustling studios and workshops where artists and students are busy cutting papers, stitching bindings and manning the letterpresses. Classes can run a bit on the expensive side, but it is worth checking out the schedule of events if you have any interest in learning anything related to bookmaking. The Center for Book Arts is located at 28 West 27th street, between Broadway and 6th Ave.

The other place I recently discovered is Printed Matter, Inc. This is an unusual shop on the far west side that sells rare, limited-edition and handmade books. It describes itself as being "the largest non-profit organization dedicated to publications made by artists." 'Odd' and 'fascinating' are two very appropriate words that come to my mind to describe this shop. Visit this shop to see the variety of ways printed matter can be presented, to inspire you to print and bind your own writing or to just buy an offbeat publication. Printed Matter, Inc. is located at 195 10th Ave. between 21st and 22nd Streets.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Hidden Parks of Manhattan: Ford Foundation Building

Midtown is a busy place. So finding a refuge from the crowds, noise and traffic is a happy blessing. Though Midtown does not seem to have as many corner parks as say, the West Village, they do exist - they're just harder to find.

One green oasis in Midtown that I just discovered is the Ford Foundation Building, located between 1st and 2nd Avenues and 42nd and 43rd streets. It's actually a beautifully lush garden and pond enclosed within the indoor atrium of the building. The striking thing is that the building is so tall that the courtyard walls rise magnificently upward from the garden. The garden and pond receive its water supply from rooftop rainwater and collected steam from within the glassed-in atrium. Built in the sixties, the building is headquarters for the Ford Foundation, an organization that funds all sorts of charities and grants around the world.

So whether you're looking for a quiet place to relax or if you're simply passing by the area, stop and take a peek inside this unusual building.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes

With the explosion of various chic cupcake bakeries around town I imagine you're expecting the post where I publish my informal results of a cupcake competition. Is it Billy's or Magnolia? Crumbs or Cupcake Factory? (Yes, inevitably that post too come, . . . but at the moment I am still eating myself around town. I must carefully weigh all the options, you see).

However, if you prefer to skip this tired competition all together and instead think you can make a cupcake as good as from any of these trendy cupcakeries, then I suggest you head to N.Y. Cake & Baking Dist. shop to stock up on baking supplies. The shop is filled with cake tins, decorative paper cupcake cups, frosted flowers, baking tools, candles, cake toppers, frosting dyes and glitter, silver gilded almonds, sprinkles, cake stands, wedding cake supplies and so much more. Even if you are not a seasoned baker, browsing the aisles of this shop might just inspire you to go home, remove the handbags and winter hats from your storage closet, ahem, I mean oven, and bake a cake or two.

N.Y. Cake & Baking Dist. is located at 56 West 22nd Street, between 5th and 6th Aves. The service is very rude, but you might have to put up with it as this may be the only baking store in Manhattan that is this good.

Just a word of warning - remember, you live in NYC, . . . your kitchen is TINY and you already use your oven as a storage closet. Don't buy too many baking supplies!