Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hidden Surprises of Manhattan

I'm sure that there's nothing hidden about Manhattan with 1.6M people living in 23 square miles ... (70,000 people or so per square mile for statistics-happy folks). But one of the reasons I still like making the trip (even for work), is that there's always something to discover.

Images from the book "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge" flutter in the recesses of my brain.But it's not imaginary. Zillions of people know it's real and see it every day from a distance. Yet I felt like Christopher Columbus when I saw it the first time a few years ago. I was riding my bike across the GW Bridge and had stopped to soak in the Manhattan skyline when I looked down and noticed it sitting at the foot of the bridge. Tiny little thing. Even though it's almost famous, it's far from being a tourist attraction. I mean, there's no easy way to get to it. The first time I stopped by, we parked at Columbia Pres Hospital and wandered around until we found our way there. (click here for a photo blog of walking there.) It's up Riverside a bit, under the Henry Hudson, across a small pedestrian bridge over a train line, through a public works building, past a couple of lightly used tennis courts, and down a ways to the foot of the bridge beyond a chain link fence. Just the other day we rode there on our bikes, which is much easier. The Hudson River bikeway is a blast.

While there's nothing hidden about Central Park, I'd never before found my way to the Bathesda Fountain. Restored in 2007, this is a magnificently grand public plaza. And thousands of people see it every weekend. My excuse is that you can't see it from Joisey. It's hidden behind all those buildings and trees. But hidden, well, not really. It was featured in the movie Godspell, and more recently in Disney's Enchanted. It's in the center of the park at about 72nd street.

Least hidden of these three sites is W 32nd street. I can't even guess how many people travel along this road each day. Heck, it's right outside the entrance to Penn Station. But this 3 story skybridge gets little attention. According to a study by Columbia University school of architecture, this 3 story bridge was built by the same architects as the Empire State building to connect Gimbel's flagship store with its offices across the street. It's now part of the Manhattan Mall complex, but it's no longer in use.
Studio Team


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