I love NY.
Wall Street, the Empire States Building, the NY Yankees, riding the subways, authentic New York style pizza, New York hot dog, hot pastrami sandwich at one of their famous New York delicatessens, the U.S. Open on a balmy September evening, ice skating at Wollman Rink… these are just a few of the things that remind me of the city that never sleeps.
Whenever we travel to New York, it has become a tradition that we spend an afternoon in Central Park, one of my favorite places in the world. It has been the beautiful backdrop to many classic films, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Annie Hall, Kramer vs Kramer, Ghostbusters, Home Alone 2, etc. I fell in love with it long before I actually visited New York.
Recently, my wife, daughter and I took the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station from Bayside, Queens and then hopped on the A, C subway line to 81st Street, Museum of Natural History. We spent 2 hours going through the Rose Center for Earth and Space and revisited the Hall of Dinosaurs and the Hall of North American Mammals. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside the Hayden Planetarium, which is located inside the upper half of the 87-foot diameter sphere of the Rose Center for Earth and Space. We did, however, walk along the 360-foot long Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, which spirals downward from the exit of the Hayden Big Bang Theater (at the base of the sphere), laying out a 13-billion year journey of the universe itself. One’s stride represents millions of years, whereby the end of the pathway finally reveals the existence of human evolution, depicted by a single strand of human hair! I remember watching Cosmos on Netflix and American astrophysicist (and director for the Rose Center for Earth and Space) Neil DeGrasse Tyson described that if the formation of the universe was condensed into one year’s time, our species would not appear until the very last second on New Year’s eve. That is amazing.
(above) View of Central Park South from the massive schist bedrock above Wollman Rink. In the years to come, Central Park South will become home to several supertowers, skyscrapers reaching 1,500 feet high and casting long shadows on the park. This has sparked a lot of controversy between real estate developers, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the general public.
(above) Central Park West. No matter which side you’re on, the sounds of the city slowly disappear as you enter further into the park. Like guarding sentries, the rising cityscape stands in the distance behind the dense foliage lining the park perimeter. It is a wonderful thing to experience for a first time visitor.
A few days later, I met up with a few of my past co-workers near the Roosevelt Island Tram Station (Manhattan Side) to go see the FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. I didn’t know much about the memorial at the time, only that it was designed by architect Louis Kahn, the same man who masterfully designed the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The tram ride was a nice break from riding the subway or taxi, especially when we got to see the city from up high.
(left) Tree-lined gravel pathway. (right) Close-up detail of the granite plinths inside the “Room,” a 60-foot square open plaza. The FDR Four Freedoms Park is the heaviest stone-setting job ever to be undertaken in New York City. Inside the Room, there are 190 individual monoliths, 70 of which measure 6 x 6 x 12 feet and weighing 36 tons! There are 7,700 tons of stones placed within the park. All of the granite, which was specified by architect Louis Kahn in his original design, was quarried in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
Afterwards, we decided to go check out the World Trade Center Memorial down at Ground Zero. We took the F train down to Washington Square and transferred on the E train to the World Trade Center stop. We meant to go see it last year but we ran out of time. I saw documentaries about the construction of One World Trade Center, currently the tallest building in the U.S. and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The original design, which was conceived by architect Daniel Libeskind, went through so many revisions because of the disagreements with developer Larry Silverstein, who thought that the total office space would have been reduced by more than 3 million square feet in comparison with the original complex.
Reflecting Absence, the concept for the North and South Pool Memorials, was designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad of Handel Architects and landscape architect Peter Walker. The recessed pools outline the original footprints of the Twin Towers, where streaming water along the edges of the sunken walls flow towards the center of the void. Cut out from the metal parapets surrounding the perimeter of each pool are the 2,977 names of victims who perished from the 9/11 attacks, including those on board American Airlines Flight 11 (North Tower), United Airlines Flight 175 (South Tower), American Airlines Flight 77 (Pentagon), United Airlines Flight 93 (Pennsylvania), and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
We didn’t go out to eat as much as we had liked since we were staying with my in-laws in Bayside, Queens. My mother-in-law makes the best homemade Korean beef radish soup Muguk (무국) and ox-tail soup Gom Guk (곰국). As soon as we arrive from JFK International, all the delicious Korean side dishes are laid out on the dinner table in a colorful spread of flavors.
(left) On our first night, we had Korean beef radish soup Muguk (무국). (right) The next day, she made us ox-tail soup Gom Guk (곰국). The secret is that after the ox-tail meat is cleaned and soaked in cold water for an hour, it is boiled and the step is repeated and then simmered for hours, I mean overnight, until the broth is white and rich with flavor. Then top it off with the cooked meat, sliced green onions and some black pepper and it’s heaven in a bowl.