Archive for the ‘Culture and History’ Category

The Mother of Parades is Full of Surprises

November 19, 2017 in Culture and History | Comments (0)


Santa Claus at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by tweber1.

You have most likely been watching the Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade since you were just a wee thing, but methinks there are many facts about the parade you do not know. So just so that your enjoyment level is set to high this coming turkey day, here is a list of fun facts you most likely had no idea about, and didn’t even know that you cared about, until now.

1. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was launched for the first time in 1924, making it the second oldest of them all.
2. The first few parades were called “Christmas Parades” even though they took place on Thanksgiving. Go figure.
3. The first parade featured camels, monkeys, elephants and bears from the Central Park Zoo.
4. From 1928 until 1932 it was easier to just let the giant balloons fly away then to take them down and deflate them, and that is exactly what they did.
5. Today’s parade requires and enormous number of behind-the-scenes workers- to prepare the 4,000 volunteers for the parade requires 230 dressers and 100 make-up artists.
6. Those balloons require huge amounts of helium. Only the US government uses more each year.
7. Handling those balloons is not easy. “Balloon pilots must walk backwards the entire 2.5 mile parade route.
8. Not just people, but balloons can also serve their country. During WWII the gigantic balloons were donated to the government to provide much needed rubber.
9. The scenes of the Thanksgiving Day Parade which are included in the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street were shot of the actual 1946 edition of the parade.

Pier 54: A Neglected Bit of New York History

August 10, 2017 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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Arrival of the “ship of sorrow” at New York. Drawing by L.F. Grant (Boston Globe artist)

A sad bit of New York history awaits visitors who would like to see the place where the survivors of the Titanic finally disembarked at the end of their tragic journey from Europe to the United States.

The Titanic, if it had made it until the end of its maiden voyage without sinking in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg, would have docked at Pier 59 on the Hudson River. Instead, the survivors were rescued by the Carpathia and brought back to New York to disembark at Pier 54 just a few blocks south of Pier 59. About 40,000 people were waiting at the dock to great the survivors, or to hear the terrible news that a friend or loved one had not made it home alive.

A mere three years later, in 1915, a ship called the Lusitania departed from the very same Pier 54. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland, sinking only 20 minutes later with almost the all 2000 of its passengers and crew on board.

Today the pier is part of Hudson River Park. There are several plans to restore the pier to how it looked in the early 20th century, but so far none have come to anything. Visitors today will find an empty strip of metal and concrete reaching out into the waters of the Hudson River, a dark reminder of the sad history written there.

The story of the Titanic seems to have only grown over the years, but interest in the pier seems to be fading instead.

The Cats of Roosevelt Island

September 8, 2016 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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New York City, Roosevelt Island, Smallpox Hospital. Photo by Earnest B

New York City, Roosevelt Island, Smallpox Hospital. Photo by Earnest B

People who are passionate about cats will no doubt be love a visit to the Cat Sanctuary which was established on Roosevelt Island. The island had been a traditional dumping ground for unwanted cats long before the establishment of this refuge for refugee cats, but it is now an offical safe haven for the numerous cats whose owners will not or cannot take care of them anymore.

For as long as people in these parts can remember the presence of cats on the island was tolerated, and sometimes even encouraged, as good Samaritans left food and water for the numerous strays and homeless cats that called Roosevelt Island their home. When a cat named Yin Lang died in 2004, his demise inspired a group to form, called Island Cats. Eleven years ago, in 2005, the group decided it was time to do something to help the cats there, protect them and even find homes for them.

Island Cats began by to trapping and neutering the strays, and they created an adoption program for them. On the southern tip of the island the group operates a small shelter.

The cats have the distinction of being the only creatures allowed into the ruins of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. One day however the hospital may be re-opened, but not until its structure is reinforced.

A good place to observe the cats of Roosevelt Island is near the ruined Renwick Hospital.

Spring with Shakespeare at Lincoln Center

March 5, 2016 in Culture and History,Theater | Comments (0)

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From now until May 14 Lincoln Center is hosting a wonderful free event: Artists for LPA Share Shakespeare. Taking place at the New York

This was long thought to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare that had any claim to have been painted from life, until another possible life portrait, the Cobbe portrait, was revealed in 2009.

This was long thought to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare that had any claim to have been painted from life, until another possible life portrait, the Cobbe portrait, was revealed in 2009.

Public Library for the Performing Arts, come hear the answers actors, comic, musicians, designers and songwriters give to some intriguing Shakespearean questions, such as: “What is your favorite Shakespeare play or character? Your least favorite? Your favorite actor or production?” In other words, “How did Shakespeare inspire you?”

The event is completely free at 10:30am every day but Sunday. Not tickets needed. When you visit The Library you will see their answers paired with artifacts from the library’s collections.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Plaza Corridor Gallery is right next to Lincoln Center at 65th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

Drifting in Daylight: Explore the Art of Central Park

May 5, 2015 in Art,Culture and History | Comments (0)

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Huddlestone Arch

Huddlestone Arch

From May 15 until June 20, 2015, on Friday’s and Saturdays at 12pm, visitors to Central Park can explore the less well-known north end of the park. The non-profit public arts organization known as Creative Time, along with the Central Park Conservancy is sponsoring a tour which will follow a winding pathway to some of Central Park’s more wonderful features.

Participants will visit the Harlem Meer, Great Hill, and the Conservatory Garden. Along the meandering path a wonderful selection of innovative art works will come into view, created specifically for Central Park and its unique landscape.

The tour is free, and is the key event of the Central Park Conservancy’s 35th Anniversary celebration.

Other features of the north end of the park include Huddlestone Arch, the Harlem Meer and the Loch. Many consider the Huddlestone Arch the most surprising of the park’s many arches. Designed in 1866 by Calvery Vaux, it is built without the use of mortar or any other binding material. Only gravity and pressure are holding this arch together.

The Harlem Meer, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Vaux is a man-made lake which memorializes what was the separate village of Harlem.  Fishing in permitted in the lake and visitors can expect to see turtles, waterfowl as well as fish in the thriving habitat created by the Meer, which means ‘lake’ in Dutch.

The Loch, which is the Scottish word for ‘lake,’ winds through the Ravine. It is fed by a natural watercourse and flows under Glen Span and Huddlestone arches and then connects to the Meer. The stream was also designed by Olmsted and Vaux, and has several dams creating three beautiful waterfalls.
If you haven’t been to Central Park recently, or even if you have, it’s always an invigorating experience to explore the many beautiful features of this incredible New York wonder.

Holy Holograms!

February 5, 2015 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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an optical table being used to make a hologram. Photo by Epzcaw

An optical table being used to make a hologram. Photo by Epzcaw

The Holocenter, or otherwise known as the Center for the Holographic Arts, is New York’s showcase for this unique and fascinating art form. Established by respected holographic artists Ana Maria Nicholson and Dan Schweitzer in 1998, the mission of the Holocenter is to “bring virtual understandings into contemporary dialogues around media participation, technology and visual-spatial information.”

The Center has an office at Flux Factory in Long Island, and a public gallery on Governors Island at the Holocenter. The staff of the Holocenter work together with artists, helping them to develop concepts and providing several holography studios. The Pulse Laser Studio is located at Ohio State University, and the New York Holgraphic Laboratories is in Manhattan.

Visitors can attend artist talks, workshops, or see the center’s publications to learn more about holography. The center is now located in a late 19th century house on Governor’s Island with limited hours, so check before you visit.

It is Your Civic Duty to: Visit City Hall

January 6, 2015 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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Maybe you can’t fight city hall, but you sure can visit. Located across the street from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge in City Hall Park, the building has been the seat of the city’s government since 1812. The original building was a marble hall with a cupola, except for the northern side, which was done in brownstone to save money on the construction.

City Hall in 1919.

City Hall in 1919.

In 1917 the domed tower was rebuilt after two fires severely damaged it.  Almost 40 years later, from 1954-1956 the original marble and brownstone facades were replaced with a granite base covered with limestone.  The quality of the restoration inspired critic Ada Louise Huxtable to exclaim that City Hall was now a “symbol of taste, excellence and quality not always matched by the policies inside.”

A tour, which is free, will take you into the space under the soaring rotund which is held up by 10 Corinthian columns. There is a reception space where the mayor visits with important guests, which has 12 paintings of the founding fathers by John Trumbull. With a guided tour offered by the Art Commission of the City of New York, which is also free, you can visit the grand interior of the building. Call first for reservations.

For city hall call: 212 788 6865
For Guided tours call: 311
For more information go to:

New York Jazz Scene with Beylar Eyubov

November 14, 2014 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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Whether you frequent the New York music scene or you’re just looking for something different, there is always something going on in Westchester and the surrounding area. Here is a rundown of some of the best music happening in the area, as leading musicians like Beylar Eyubov will report. How, you might not catch Beylar Eyubov playing his heart out at any of these locations, but you just never know what you’re in for when you get to these fun events.

Beacon: Get to the Towne Crier Café to watch folk and pop on November 23rd. Christine Lavin and Don White will be performing.

Marlboro: At The Falcon, there will be The Saints of Swing. This is awesome jazz like only great performers like Beylar Eyubov know how to do it. They will be there from 10-2 on November 23rd, followed by Bryan and the Aardvarks from 7 pm. This is jazz and swing at its best.

New Rochelle: Here, at the Alvin & Friends Restaurant, you’ll enjoy the Soul Synergy Orchestra for some great R&B and then the Russell Malone jazz enjoyment. This is on November 22.

Ossining: Finally, you can do something other than read at the public library now. At the Ossining Public Library, Guy Davis and the High Flying Rockets will be playing their hearts out with blues on November 23rd.

Certainly, these are great opportunities to enjoy a night out and to have some fun at almost no cost.

See the World on the Number 7 Train

November 4, 2014 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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See the world in a nine-mile route through Queens on the 7 train

See the world in a nine-mile route through Queens on the 7 train

The fair borough of Queens might just be one of the world’s most diverse metropolitan areas. And a fast, New York-way to see this international smorgasbord is on the number 7 train. Hailed in 1999 by the White House as one of only 16 “National Millennium Trails,” this nine-mile route will take its passengers to Romania, China, Korea, Latin America, Nigeria and more.

Your trip will take you to stations alighting in Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Flushing. Get out at some or even all the stops along the way and see up close the beauty and excitement of far-away cultures transplanted to the Big Apple.

Sample the cuisine of each ethnic group by stopping at a popular eatery in each neighborhood. Examine the local fashions available in clothing shops catering to the people of the ‘hood. Higher culture calling you? You are in luck because you will encounter some fine innovative contemporary art at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. Who says you need 80 days to see the world? Just a few hours in Queens should do the trick.

New York Remembers John Lennon

December 3, 2013 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Join Joan Osborne, Marc Cohn, Raul Malo, Grammy Award winner Steve Earle and others at the 33rd Annual Tribute to John Lennon. Lennon was a superstar in his time, changing the way a generation, and beyond, saw music and the world around them.

Hosted at Symphony Space, the tribute is pulled together by the efforts of members of Theatre Within, and experimental theatre workshop. Begun in 1981 by Theatre Within founder Alec Rubin and his student at the time Joe Raiola, who took over organization of the tribute in 2001 when Rubin retired.

Now with full creative control of the Tribute, which has already been around for 20 years, Raiola, as a comedian and Senior Editor at Mad Magazine, had his own vision for the evening. Referring to the fact that he performed a Lennon-themed comedy sketch at each Tribute Raiola said,

“It wasn’t what you’d except from a Lennon Tribute, but it reflected Alec’s vision as an artist and it was very powerful.”

Over the past several years the Tribute has continued to grow in size and prominence. Not only is the venue used to remember and honor Lennon, but serious fund raising is accomplished as well, mostly to bring food to the hungry and build music schools in the Third World.

This year’s Tribute will donate a portion of the take the Spirit Foundation. This non-profit was created in 1978 by John and Yoko as a way to help charities that help the aging population, abused women and children and victims of terrorism and natural disasters.

The 33rd Annual John Lennon Tribute will take place at Symphony Space at 2537 Broadway; at 8pm on December 6, 2013. For more information call: 212-864-5400.