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Wood houses, Sylvan St, Harlem, NYC
20th Jul 2008
New York City: Harlem, Central Park, Brooklyn, ESB.

Harlem.  The name may conjure up various images in your mind, just like it does in mine.  The two most powerful images I have are of Afro-hair basketball players balancing spinning balls on their fingers and of an inner city full of racial tension.  This is the setting of the scene in one of the (too many) Die Hard movies where Bruce Willis is sentenced to death by being forced to walk though Harlem wearing an "I hate niggers" sandwich board.

Peter used to live here and kindly took me on a tour of some of the historical and cultural highlights.  These included his old street, Sylvan Terrace, which is one of the only streets with wood houses in the whole of Manhattan; the oldest residence on Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel mansion; the house of Alexander Hamilton (killed in a duel by Morris ** .... so I was told, but apparently Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr - thanks Mike), and City College of New York.  We walked the main high street in Harlem, without sandwich boards, and had a brunch of "soul food" - excellent food of black cuisine such as collard greens (kale).

Harlem is a little run-down, and were were certainly conspicious in our European appearance, but nowhere near how I imagined it.  There were a couple of ominous boarded-up shops, but then there was a huge condo being erected. 


We then walked most of the lengths of the enormous Central Park.  Peter was keen for me to appreciate the importance of this park to New Yorkers, explaining that without the park, its greens, its spaces, and its recreations facilities the residents could go crazy.  He said it's the park that makes Manhattan inhabitable.   The view of Midtown over the reservoir was incredible, as were the many Ghostbusters-like building lining its edge.

From here I went alone to the Guggenheim museum.  I'd been torn between the three major art museums, but I thought that this, regardless of its content, would be the most New York-like.   As I'm sure most of you are aware, this building, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's least ugly creations, spirals around a central rotunda, and the art is placed in the spiral.  It's actually a great idea for a gallery as it allows you to see everything without accidentally omitting a section - its topology is that of  a long thin room.   The collection was of French Louise Bourgeois.  Her art was... meh.   I can appreciate fine art, even modern art, and indeed spent an hour discussing the pieces on the wall of my friend in Chicago; but I did no appreciate any of her creations.  I did, however, really like two pieces by Laszlo Moroly-Nagy, whom I had never before heard of.

After the museum I took the subway to Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York city, from where I walked back to "the city" (Manhattan) over the famous Brooklyn Bridge.  The plaques describing its creation suggest that the borough system is quite new:  words to the effect of, "Erected in 1870 as a joint venture between the cities of New York and Brooklyn."   From up on the pedestrian walkway one can look down upon the traffic and out over the river.  The bridge offers greats views of Manhattan and the East River.

By now, in the 95 degree heat and high humidity, I was exhausted, but since it was not yet hometime I reshuffled some of my plans are went to the Empire State Building.  The queues were not too long, but many.  I queued for security, for a ticket ($19!), for the first lift/elevator, and for the second.  What kind of tourist attraction requires two lifts?  In the end I walked the last six storeys to the observation deck on the 82nd floor, which is apparently far better than the 102nd as it's open-air.  The views of the city were wonderful, it gave a real sense of size to be able to look up and down the island and to not see either end.  It was only really possible to see half of Central Park before the view faded in the haze and distance.

I returned to Port Washington shattered.

Next: New York City: day 4
Previous: New York: Jones State Park beach

Diary Photos

Wood houses, Sylvan St, Harlem, NYC

Morris-Jumel house, Harlem, NYC

CCNY, Harlem, NYC

Brownstones, Harlem, NYC

Midtown over Central Park, NYC

Ghostbusters, NYC

Toy boats in Central Park, NYC

Guggenheim Museum interior, NYC

Park Avenue & 86th St, NYC

Subway map device, NYC

Brooklyn, NYC

Strange water, NYC

Dan on Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Manhattan , NYC

Brooklyn Bridge superstructure, NYC

Empire State Building, NYC

Chrysler/Trump/UN from Empire State Building, NYC

Downtown Manhattan from ESB, NYC

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