Seven Not-So-Familiar Manhattan Photo Opps
This time around I’m going to do something a little different: the following service piece was written by my good friend and fellow JSchool classmate, Philip Ross. It relates to a previous post from not long ago that I wrote for class, titled what to expect when you’re expecting (your parents). In both cases the goal is to get you New Yorkers (and visitors!) out of your five-block perimeter comfort zone, in hope of introducing you to something new. Here goes:
New York City is the most photographed city in the world. Seriously, it is.
Documenting your visit to New York is as crucial as learning to properly hail a cab (don’t crowd the curb, extend one arm out, and look disinterested). Often, the celebrity landmarks – the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, that bridge in Central Park where Peter Parker kissed Mary Jane in Spiderman – become the focus of every visitor’s camera. But New York is a treasure trove of other noteworthy photo opportunities that frequently get overlooked.
Take the time to explore these lesser known landmarks, and get the shot to prove you were there – because if it’s not on Facebook, it never happened.
1. Gracie Mansion
88 E End Ave, New York, NY 10028
Built in 1799, Gracie Mansion is now the official residence of New York City’s mayor. The Federal style wooden manor, designed by John McComb Jr. – the architect of New York City Hall – sits on a luscious green belt along the East River. The site was once a strategic command post for George Washington’s army during the American Revolutionary War, as it offered a prime view of Hell Gate, the narrow tidal straight between Queens and Manhattan.
While you may not sight Bloomberg reading his morning paper (he only uses the estate for meetings) you can tour the grounds and enjoy a stroll through a chapter of American history.
2. Strawberry Fields
Central Park West at 72nd Street, New York, NY 10023
New York Mayor Ed Koch commissioned the landscaping of Strawberry Fields in Central Park in 1985 to commemorate the life of musician John Lennon. The memorial, which includes a tiled mosaic with the word “Imagine” in the center, is located directly across from Dakota Apartments, the site of Lennon’s murder.
The smell of burning incense wafts from incense bowls as admirers of the icon reflect in silence. Stake out a bench and enjoy a few moments of peace – it may be the only place in the city where silence is the norm rather than the exception; the site is deemed a “quiet zone.”
3. East River Ferry
E 35th Street at FDR Drive, New York, NY 10016
An excerpt from Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry reads: “Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm’d Manhattan? / River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide ? / The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter ?” You can take the journey Whitman aggrandized in prose and experience the “scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide” by hopping on New York’s East River Ferry. The ride offers panoramic vistas of Manhattan as you cross under three of New York’s bridges – the Williamsburg, the Manhattan, and the more notable Brooklyn.
Pick up the ferry from the East River dock at 33rd and FDR Drive and hop off at Wall Street/Pier 11 in lower Manhattan. Tickets are $4.00 and can be purchased with a debit card at the dock or with cash upon boarding.
4. Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10010
In a city of rectangles, the Flatiron Building defies geometry. Its triangular façade slices through the Manhattan skyline like a great mountain peak sharpened by years of erosion. Designed by Daniel Burnham – the architect attributed with the successful expansion of Chicago – the Flatiron was completed in 1902, but not without controversy. Critics believed the thin structure, being the only skyscraper north of 14th Street at the time and with its most narrow point just six feet in diameter, would topple under the city’s brutal winds.
The Flatiron is across the street from Madison Square Park, and is bordered by Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and East 22nd Street – a triangular peninsula jutting out into an ocean of traffic. Grab a shake and fries at the outdoor Shake Shack, then meander over to the Southwest corner of the park for a snapshot of the city’s most unique skyscraper.
5. Andy Warhol Statue
Broadway and E 17th Street, New York, NY 10003
The 1960s saw the advent of the Pop Art phenomenon, and no one epitomized the genre better than Andy Warhol. Located just around the corner from Warhol’s famous Factory, The Andy Warhol Statue, designed by artist Rob Pruitt, is made of chrome, embracing the startling, flashy quality of the Pop Art movement.
Andy stands at the Northwest corner of Union Square. The statue is one of many in the area, although by far the most eye-catching; the others – Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi and the Virgin Mary – are made of less conspicuous materials like stone and bronze.
6. McSorley’s Old Ale House
15 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003
The oldest pub in New York, and the only one to operate openly during prohibition (police need a watering hole, too), McSorley’s Old Ale House is a true relic of old New York. Mementos from as early as 1900 adorn its walls, and sawdust coats the floor. Once a men-only establishment, McSorley’s did not allow women patrons through its doors until August 1970, following a successful lawsuit by the National Organization for Women.
McSorley’s is located in the East Village a few storefronts from the corner of 7th Street and 3rd Ave. The bar serves a light and a dark beer, and the servers are not shy to reprimand anyone whose order deviates from this menu (I speak from experience).
7. Washington Square Arch
1 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003
It may not be as majestic as Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, but the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village is still a sight to behold. The arch was originally made of wood and plaster, but an enthusiastic campaign was started in 1890 to rebuild the arch with marble. The park in which it sits was almost the site of a massive freeway and, had it not been for the efforts of activists like Jane Jacobs, that is exactly what it would be. The park was also the roosting place of folk singers in the 1960s. It was here that the bohemian movement was revived amid strong opposition from surrounding residents and New York law enforcement keen on maintaining order.
Enter the arch at the North-end of Washington Square Park where Fifth Avenue meets Waverly Place. Find a seat and watch the crowd, as the park is dotted with street performers.
Philip Ross is an aspiring journalist and graduate student at NYU. Having majored in International Development Studies at UCLA, he hopes to use his training in journalism to help tell the stories of poverty that still plagues the global South.