Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Flat Stanley Visits NYC Part 2 - and now the more usual New Yorky stuff (plus kind of a lot about trains)

Note from Bonnie - once again today, I'm turning my blog over to Flat Stanley, who's visiting me from Ms. Rozell's class in Texas. Hi, Ms. Rozell's class! For more about who Flat Stanley is and why we're playing tourist, check yesterday's post. Take it away, Stanley!

Thanks, Bonnie! So at the end of the last post, we were just about to go down into the subway to head on into Manhattan. Brooklyn is a great borough and you could just visit there for a week and not get bored at all, but there are a couple of really famous NYC landmarks that we can get to really easily from Grand Army Plaza, and Bonnie decided that we should go see a couple of those too, so we're on our way! 

We're still in Brooklyn, but I just wanted to show you this neat subway art. This looks kind of old-fashioned but it's actually part of a program where the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority, the group that runs the public transportation) brings in artists to do station-wide art projects that make being in the subway a lot more interesting and fun. A lot of the older subway stations actually have beautiful mosaics and other decorations because they were built right around the beginning of the 20th century, when there was a thing called the City Beautiful movement, when city planners tried to make things that even everyday people used into something beautiful. 

Later in the 20th century, NYC fell on some hard times - have you ever seen pictures of subway cars all covered in graffiti? That was in the 70's when the city almost went bankrupt! The subways actually got to be scary places to go, and the stations that were built or re-done then were not beautiful at all, and the old ones that had been beautiful got all sad and dirty, but then the city started to recover and things got better. The nice old stuff that had was still there was cleaned up, and then somebody thought of doing this artist program to make the stations that were too dreary to do anything about look nice, and it's worked out great! Bonnie actually thought this plaque might have been from the old days but when she looked it up on Google she found out that an artist named Jane Greengold was invited to decorate this station in 1995. The little band of mosaic tile at the top is probably from the old days but the plaque is part of Ms. Greengold's station-wide nod to the Soldiers and Sailors Arch, just upstairs in Grand Army Plaza. You can read a little bit more about it here if you want to. 

Ms. Greengold called her theme "Wings for the IRT: The Irresistible Romance of Travel", but to a New Yorker, "IRT" also stands for "Interborough Rapid Transit", which was the name of the first company to run a subway line in New York City. The first subway line started in 1904 and it was only in Manhattan, but then it spread out, and the Grand Army Plaza station was part of that company way back when. New York's a big city with lots of people who want to get around, so another company came along to see if they could make some money doing that too; that one started as Brooklyn Rapid Transit and then when they started going to Manhattan they changed to Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit, "BMT". Then the city decided that they should actually run their own subway line too, and that was called the Independent Subway, which got shortened to "IND". The two other ones ended up not making their owners enough money after a while, and the city ended up taking them both over in 1940 and gradually blending the 3 systems (which had been built as totally separate!) into 1. You can tell somebody's a real old-school "Noo Yawker" if they talk about taking the IRT or the BMT instead of calling their line by a letter or a number (like Bonnie rides the B or the Q to work and she didn't really know all this stuff by heart, she sort of knew about it but we had to go to this site to get all the details).

Anyways, sorry, wow, that was a lot about the subway, wasn't it? But it's kind of neat how it got to be the way it is today. I'll try not to talk quite so much after this! 

Now we're in Manhattan looking down Wall Street. This is more what you think of when you think of New York City, isn't it? This is way way way downtown, but it's called Wall Street because a long time ago this is where the wall that marked the north end of the city was. Back then the city was still called New Amsterdam, it was Dutch too. This is where the New York Stock Exchange is, and although more people are starting to live down here (the real estate people love making up cute names for neighborhoods and they call this FiDi, short for Financial District), it used to just be banks, banks and more banks! If we had a little more time we could walk down and see the stock exchange but the day was actually going a little faster than Bonnie had expected it to!  

And what she really wanted to do was take me for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. This is a fantastic thing to do if you ever come to New York City - it doesn't take very long, the views are incredible (I'll show you some of those in a minute!) and it's actually free! 

Here we are inside the ferry terminal. Bonnie had actually had a day off from work the day we did all of this, but it was a work day and it was getting pretty close to rush hour - that's why there are so many people here, they're all waiting to get on the boat and go home to Staten Island (which is also full of houses and trees and is a much quieter place to live that Manhattan, which is really busy). 

The ferry boats are nice and big, though, so there's plenty of room for everybody. We're riding the Spirit of America today, getting ready to cross upper New York Harbor - there's somebody we HAVE to say hi to out there! 

And here we go! We're looking back at downtown; there's another ferry waiting to load up, at the height of rush hour a ferry leaves that terminal every 15 minutes! It takes about 25 minutes to cross the harbor so at rush hour you always pass another ferry going the other way. We're also looking up the East River - that's the river that runs along the east side of Manhattan, but it's also called the East River because that's the river a boat would take to go east out into Long Island Sound.
Further out in NY Harbor - I wish it was a prettier day because when the sky is blue and the sun is shining on the glass buildings, this is a spectacular view! Here you can also see the Hudson, which runs along the west side of Manhattan. The Hudson is also sometimes called the North River, because that's the river a boat would take to go north to Albany and beyond. The Lenape, whose territory this was at one time, called the Hudson "Muhheakantuck", meaning "river that flows both ways", because the Hudson (along with all of the major waterways that surround NYC) is tidal, coming in and going out with the moon - so for a little over six hours it flows north, and then it slows down, and stops, and then starts up again going south, and does that for a little over six hours, and then slows down and stops and starts up going north again and does that again and again pretty much forever. This is great for people in boats (especially little ones like Bonnie likes) because if you time your trip right you can go from Manhattan to, oh, say, the Statue of Liberty and back and have the current helping you out the whole time. If you time it wrong, it can be a huge pain, so most boaters around here know how to read their current tables! 
And speaking of the Statue of Liberty - 

There she is! The Lady in the Harbor. You guys probably all know a lot about her already, and of course everybody knows what she looks like, but how can you come to NYC without at least seeing her? Off to the right is a little bit of Ellis Island, where a whole lot of peoples' grandparents and great grandparents first came to the United States. We didn't go there today, that would be a whole extra blog post, but Bonnie's been there and when people ask her what they should do if they are visiting NYC, she usually recommends that. She's never actually been to visit the Statue of Liberty, but she's sailed and paddled past a zillion times and just never gets tired of seeing the Statue. 

We're playing tourist out here on the water today, and a lot of people do like to play here, but there's a lot of work that still goes on in NY Harbor, the city grew up where it did because of this beautiful sheltered harbor. Here's a tugboat not too far from Staten Island, probably waiting to go collect a barge they're going to take somewhere. Every Labor Day Weekend there's a big tugboat race up by Manhattan, Bonnie says it's fantastic! 

And this is the only shot we actually took ON Staten Island - there are some great places to visit on Staten Island but again, we just didn't have time - hint: if you ever mail yourself to NYC, make sure the person you mail yourself to has more than one day to take you around! We're getting back on the same ferry we just got off of - they make everybody get off of the ferry when it lands even if you're going straight back, so the crew can do a quick clean-up without falling over people. 

Looking up the Kill van Kull, which goes on behind Staten Island. You see the word "Kill" in a lot of place names around here, the Kill Van Kull runs into the Arthur Kill, which goes by the Fresh Kills landfill, and there's Peekskill and Fishkill and Catskill and Peterskill, but it's not because New Yorkers are really angry all the time (they can be sometimes, but mostly they aren't, just like most people), it's another one of those Dutch words, and it just means a creek or other narrow body of water. The Kill van Kull is still a very busy area for commercial shipping - you can see a few of the big ships that have to go in there to get to where they need to ti load or unload - Bonnie's been back there in a kayak and she says it's fun to see the big ships going by, but little boats have to be really careful because the big guys don't have much room to move in there! 

There's another Staten Island Ferry - now we're going back to Manhattan and they're on their way where we just were. 

When we'd started out this afternoon we thought we would finish with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but we're running out of daylight, so instead we'll just walk up and take a picture of it. We passed the tall ship Peking on the way - this is a HUGE old ship and is part of the South Street Museum fleet - unfortunately they're looking for someone to buy the Peking as it's really expensive to take care of a ship like this, and the museum has another slightly smaller one, the Wavertree, that they've decided to concentrate on. She's off in drydock being fixed up now, should be beautiful when she comes back!

And you can just see the bridge in the distance. So we'll just walk a little further north - 

And there she is, the Brooklyn Bridge, standing here across the East River since 1883. It's really too bad we didn't have time to walk across, that would've been a perfect end to my day here!
Off in the background you can see the slightly newer Manhattan Bridge, which opened in 1909. You can walk across that one too but the Brooklyn Bridge is more designed with walkers in mind. Further north from there - can't see it from here - is the Williamsburg Bridge, which opened in 1903. A good way to remember the order is just to think of a fancy car - BMW! One more thing about the Brooklyn Bridge - remember how yesterday I was talking about how Brooklyn wasn't always part of NYC? This bridge being built may have been one of the things that helped make that happen; before that, you could only get to Manhattan by ferry and this bridge connected the two cities in a way they'd never been before.

And that was all we had time for in my day in NYC! I'll be heading back to Texas soon, I had fun during my short visit to NY and I hope you enjoyed my stories about the place!


clairesgarden said...

awesome again. x.

bonnie said...

Thanks! I had a good time doing this!

Anonymous said...

Hi from Kaikoura New Zealand. Loved Flat Stanleys guided tour. Love reading your blog