Dancing in the Summer Streets – Park Ave. New York
So based on the picture in the title slide, perhaps people were not dancing, but for the 3rd year in a row, miles of NYC streets were shut down to motor vehicles and for a few Saturdays in the summer, men, women and children colonized the concrete, biking, rollerblading and strolling their way north from the Brooklyn Bridge, all the way up Park Ave to 72nd st.
The Summer Streets Program provides more space for healthy recreation and is a part of NYC’s greening initiative by encouraging New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation.
According to their website, the Summer Streets is modeled after other events from around the world including Bogotá, Colombia’s Ciclovia, Paris Plage, and even New York’s own Museum Mile, the event is part bike tour, part block party, a great time for exercise, people watching, and just enjoying summer mornings.
It is also an excellent opportunity for photographers such as myself to get up close and personal with locations along Park Ave that normally would not be easily photographed due to heavy automobile traffic.
I won’t bore you with all 200+ pictures that I snapped but here are some cool highlights from the event that in my opinion, does a great job as NYC often does of giving back to its citizens and allowing them to really utilize and enjoy the city in which they live in.
One question that comes to mind is what street in Yonkers would be a cool street to shut down and allow people to roam around on for a day?
My vote would probably be South Broadway from say Getty Sq. to maybe McLean. There is still a good deal of architecture that has been preserved and it can sometimes be a bit difficult to see from the sidewalk.
Anyhow, here is a look at a few fun things from my stroll up Park Ave.
First off…lets begin at Grand Central, where at 8am on a Saturday Morning, one can certainly take advantage of the lull and get some great shots of the station.
I miss the days when all the ticket windows would be buzzing with activity and you HAD to get your ticket from there.
Also, many New Yorkers will remember that the new LCD Display board is only about a decade or so old now, the old one, that used to rely on rows of flip panels that displayed train information and moved only to a stiff breeze within the board was very New York and very old school. I would love being in the station at rush hour and you can just see them flipping like crazy due to either track changes or whatnot.
Moving along…one of the cooler part of Summer Streets is being able to explore the Park Ave Viaduct, the roadway that is mostly used by Taxi’s that travel around the Met Life Building and then continue either up or down Park Ave.
The lamp posts are almost all original, approaching 100 years in age pretty soon and seeing the craftmanship up close is very impressive. Light fixtures, railings and other parts of the viaduct are also original works.
Aside from again how cool it was to have the entire road to yourself, it was equally cool to pay homage to the one statue that probably does not get as much love as the one on the roof of the building due to where it is situated…
The Commodore can be seen on the south side of the station and the artist’s depiction of him was spot on.
He did have his down sides, rarely giving to charity as he would say, “on principle” and being very shrewd, but you have to admire a guy who at one time had the largest shipping empire in the country and then on a gutsy move, sells it all off and re-invests every dollar he has in rail.
Over time he then accumulates the largest railroad empire too, consolidating dozens of tiny rail lines to form one gigantic and very important one called the New York Central. Something tells me he would have been very good at the game Monopoly.
Vanderbilt’s monument usually takes a back seat to the much more visible one on the south-facing facade, with its clock and depiction of the Greek God Mercury, the winged God of Speed.
As you go around the terminal, you notice various entry ways, either that were practical in use at some point, or perhaps lead to hidden vistas that only a few know about…being chicken, I simply gazed, photographed and moved on.
One can also see that the Met Life building is actually supported in sections by these cool looking columns…again something you simply cannot see from the adjacent streets below.
Coming through the viaduct and onto Park Ave near 45th street, you can also see many cool things such as old light fixtures, a lion’s face and blackened road signs.
Some of the side streets were open to traffic so sometimes you would get hit with intersections where crossing guards would hold up STOP and GO signs.
Walking up Park Ave from 45th street to 72nd street, there were countless photo opportunities but here are just a few things I saw…
It was cool to take a few shots of some of the hotels along this stretch like the Waldorf Astoria that did NOT have cars in front of them!
Also, there are a few churches that have some unbelievable stone work, check out this one with the poetic sight of a homeless woman who was trying to get some sleep on a Saturday Morning.
Along the route, there were drinking stations set up, along with “rest areas” for eating and entertainment.
One of my favorite parks of the walk though were not only seeing some of the beautiful side streets of the upper east side deserted, with their beautiful Brownstones shining in the morning sun, but also the rise in view Park Ave gives you as it slopes upward in the 60′s, to give you an expansive look south.
I could go on and one here as there were many other people, places and things that I saw along the way.
Bottom Line, I love cities that show the people who live there that they care about them. You can always tell how much a city cares about its people simply by looking at how much park space there is, how many public works projects there are and what type of community events, such as Summer Streets 2011 do they offer?
I’ll leave you with this yellow bear that was sitting on the sidewalk near the UBS building on 48th street. With his reading lamp over his head, I guess this is as good a place as any in the city for enjoying a summer morning with a book…but turn the lamp off Mr. Bear, we need to conserve electricity during the day!!!