• Cherry Blossoms Announce the Largest Celebration of Japanese Culture in NYC

    The annual Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place at Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend. The much-beloved festival, which is in its 37th year, is one the biggest celebrations of Japanese culture in New York. Every year, thousands of people visit the botanic garden in Brooklyn to enjoy the cherry trees, which typically bloom during the month of April, and to welcome the Spring.

    The festival often coincides with the blooming of the trees. It has become a favored destination for local families, who watch or participate in over 60 events. These include theatre, dance & musical performances, traditional Japanese games as well as tea ceremonies (to name a few). A marketplace also offers food & drink, sweet treats, clothing & toys for purchase.

  • The Easter Parade Brings Fifth Avenue to Life

    This past Sunday, people, dogs and bunnies in their fancy hats and colorful outfits gathered on Fifth Avenue (around St. Patrick’s Cathedral) to walk in the annual Easter Parade. Many New Yorkers look forward to this event, and spend hours creating extravagant, handmade hats and costumes which they display during the Midtown parade.

    Originally, only New York’s high society would gather in Central Park to show off their best clothing on Easter Sunday and churches would decorate their entryways with flowers. But things have changed since the tradition started in the 19th century. Over the years, the popular 1948 musical, Easter Parade, (starring Judy Garland & Fred Astaire) made it fashionable for everyone to parade their best fashions on Easter. Some people took inspiration from the season’s blooms and adorned themselves in flowers.

  • Three Waldorf Astoria Artifacts Are Being Exhibited This Spring

    Ever wonder what happened to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel since it closed in 2017? The famous hotel is currently being converted into luxury apartments and hotel rooms in a restoration & redevelopment project set for completion in 2021. The hotel portion will have 350 rooms, compared with 1,413 previously. 

    The public will continue to have access to parts of the Waldorf-Astoria’s landmarked interior spaces once it reopens. This includes the West Lobby on Park Avenue and the area formerly known as Peacock Alley (the large passageway connecting Waldorf and Astoria in The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which was home to the eponymous restaurant serving its world-famous brunch).

    Until the new space re-opens, the current owners are collaborating with New York Historical Society to exhibit three of the hotel’s famous vintage artifacts:

    • Cole Porter’s 1907 Steinway grand piano, which is being restored at the Steinway & Sons factory in Queens. The famous songwriter & musician lived in a huge suite on the Waldorf’s 33rd floor—where the piano was located—for many years. He wrote some of his best musicals and songs (“You’re the Top,” “Anything Goes”) there.
    • A rocking chair that was a gift from President John F. Kennedy, which was located in the Presidential Suite.
    • The iconic World’s Fair clock, which was originally designed for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. It will return to the lobby, where it was located prior to the renovation.

  • Old Subway Fleet Supports New York Marine Life

    New York City’s subway system has been steadily replacing its old fleet with newer train models over the past decade. This begs the question of what happens to the old trains once they permanently go out of service. Between 2001 – 2010, the subway reef program offered a solution & a home for the 2,500 retired train cars by introducing them to a new aquatic environment. After their motors, lighting, air conditioning units, etc. were removed, the old subway car shells were placed on the ocean floor. Here they were transformed into artificial subway reefs where they improved the marine environments for a variety of sea life. The new reefs have since attracted sea bass, tuna, mussels, sponges, and coral. Sea Train, a new exhibition at the New York Transit Museum, which opened March 20, features up-close photography of the subway reefs by Stephen Mallon.

  • Hudson Yards: The Largest Private Development Project in US History is Here

    Hudson Yards, the largest private construction project in US history, with a 25-billion-dollar price tag opened this Friday on Manhattan’s West Side. The project consists of 16 buildings (commercial & residential skyscrapers, a museum, hotel, shopping center etc.) Here are a few highlights:

    • The Vessel
    Consisting of 154 intricately interconnected staircases, and nearly 2,500 individual steps & 80 pedestals, the Vessel is an art project with a viewing platform designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Tickets are available for free.

    • The Shed
    A contemporary art & performance venue that commissions cutting-edge projects in pop culture. This venue, with an architectural structure that contracts and expands, will open to the public with a much-anticipated performance by Björk in its first season.

    • Shops & Restaurants
    From fast-food to fine dining restaurants, Hudson Yards brings new food & dining concepts by celebrated chefs David Chang, José Andrés & Thomas Keller under one roof – making it an exciting destination for food connoisseurs. High-end retailers such as Fendi and Dior also have a footprint in the development next to Zara & H&M - over 100 shops & restaurants in total.

  • A Quick Round of Jenga in Midtown Manhattan

    Speaking about skyscrapers these days has become a race in superlatives. The huge buildings are constantly being ranked & compared in terms of their height, value, age or eco-efficiency. 270 Park Avenue, on first sight, might seem like a modest competitor in this arena. The skyscraper, which was completed in 1964, is by no means an insignificant dwarf. Its 52 floors are spread over a towering 705 ft (205 meters) in a Midcentury architectural style with a steel and glass façade. 270 Park Avenue’s claim to skyscraper superstardom is coming into fruition in an unexpected way. It will be the tallest building ever demolished when it is torn down later this year. It’s a rather strange record to set, but a new record nonetheless.

    The building, which is owned by J.P. Morgan Chase, serves as the bank's headquarters. Over the years, the tower has slowly become cramped, with 6,000 people occupying as space that was originally designed for 3,500. But thanks to a recent change in zoning laws in Midtown, Manhattan, the construction of much higher buildings than was previously permitted is now possible. This, of course has been music to J.P. Morgan Chase’s ears. The bank has chosen to keep its footprint and build a taller skyscraper after demolishing 270 Park Avenue.

    The architectural community and concerned citizens alike are criticizing the project to demolish 270 Park Avenue. Besides seeming like the building was injected into the present day from the Mad Men era, 270 Park Avenue is also the only building of this size that was planned by a woman: Architect Natalie De Blois. De Blois worked for the world-famous architecture firm "SOM" at the time it was built. The firm’s name has become ubiquitous when it comes to top projects throughout the city. Their most famous work is Mies van der Rohe's Lever House.

    The renowned architect Norman Foster has already signed on to build J.P. Morgan Chase’s new headquarters. The 70-storey high building will accommodate 15,000 employees. And just in case you're wondering how a building of this size will be demolished in the busy streets of Midtown, Manhattan, here’s a clue: Imagine taking apart a "Jenga" tower piece by piece from above. But hopefully nothing will topple over...

  • It’s Black History Month: Here’s a Brief History

    February is Black History Month in the US. The month-long celebration was founded by Carter Woodson, a Black Harvard University historian. The national celebration, which began in 1926, brings major African American contributions that were omitted from American history for decades into focus.

    The cultural celebration takes place in the month of February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (America’s 16th president) & Fredrick Douglass (an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author & public speaker). Both men played key roles in the abolishment of slavery in the United States. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a law that ended slavery in all states in 1862; and Douglass fought for human rights through his public work as a leader in the abolitionist movement.

    Many schools in the United States participate in Black History Month by assigning books specifically written by Black authors to their students. Some also teach the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, which mainly took place in the 50s and 60s. The most prominent leader during the Civil Rights Movement was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (an activist, minister & community organizer), who organized a peaceful protest & march on Washington in 1960 for Jobs & Freedom. This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”. Later that year, he became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Black History Month also provides schools and institutions the opportunity to teach about overlooked personalities, scientists, historians, and activists like Rosa Parks, who along with Dr. King & other community leaders, organized a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama for a year. Ms. Parks, by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus was arrested for civil disobedience. Her case became prominent and caused many others to follow suit. Or Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells (HeLa) are one of the most important cell lines used in medical research.

    New Yorkers are also celebrating the month with different events, including a walking tour of the Flushing Freedom mile in Queens, which features an Underground Railroad passageway. These passageways, scattered throughout the country, were critical in helping escaped slaves reach safe destinations once they left states that still held slaves. An informative tour about Seneca Village, a community founded by mostly African-American property owners in 1825 in what has now become Central Park, will also take place in the park.

  • Pier 54 Becomes Diller Island / Pier 55

    The construction of Diller Island (Pier 55), a new park on the Hudson River, is progressing quickly, since it began in the Spring of 2018. The $250 million project was conceived by, and is financially backed by, Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. The public park will float on vessels atop the Hudson River, where the southern tip of the High Line is currently situated. Diller Island will replace Pier 54, where survivors of the Titanic were once brought ashore in April 1912.

    The 2.7-acre park’s playful design is reminiscent of Peter Pan’s “Neverland” and is perched on top of 132 specially crafted concrete pots that are arranged in an undulating, organic form. It was designed by the London-based Heatherwick Studio and New York’s own Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. The park is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020 and will offer optimal views of New York’s skyline, while providing spaces for visitors to freely eat, relax and enjoy music and performances.

    The new park will also feature a 700-seat amphitheater for music, dance and theater, as well as two open-air landscaped areas, where performances will be staged. The aim is to offer 51 percent of tickets to the public for free, or under $30, once the arts programming begins in the Spring of 2021.

  • Essex Crossing: A Development Project Made for New York

    New York's landscape is constantly being shaped by new development projects emerging across the city. Essex Crossing, set for completion in 2020, is the latest project creating a lot of buzz around Manhattan's Lower East Side. Over 1,000 new residences, offices and retail spaces will make up the 1.9 million sqft development, which will also include parks, open green space and other cultural destinations. The International Center of Photography will make the new hub its permanent home, next to a new bowling alley, a movie theatre in the neighborhood. Four major subway lines (F/M/J/Z) will offer easy access to New Yorkers coming from all directions of the city.

    The project is being launched in several phases. One of the two residential towers, The Essex, opened up 98 apartments to renters in 2018, with studio apartments starting at circa 3,750 USD. The luxury apartments include a billiards lounge, a garden terrace, rooftop decks and a small urban farm. Condo sales at the second tower, 242 Broome Street, have been strong. More than 75% of the units, which were designed by the world-renowned SHoP Architects, were sold by the end of 2018. A 1-bedroom apartment in the building, which boasts its own entertainment lounge and panoramic roof top terraces, starts at 1.3 million USD.

    The Market Line at Essex Crossing, is a world-class market with over 150 local vendors that will unite a grocery, a gallery area, and food hall under one roof. The grocery will be the first to open in Spring 2019, occupying one entire city block. Some of the vendors at the current Essex Street Market (home to New York's oldest & legendary mom-and-pop food vendors) have already relocated to new shops at the Market Line, with more to join. The gallery area, which will also occupy its own block, will combine the vibrant Lower East Side art scene with clothing boutiques, independent designers, and a live music venue to create a dynamic cultural destination. The food hall will offer prepared foods in a modern, market-style setting for quick bites and shopping. 2020 can't come soon enough!

  • An Old Icon Becomes Brooklyn’s Latest Hotspot

    What’s that new glass structure on the Williamsburg Hotel’s rooftop? It’s a bar – with a playful take on a classic New York icon: the water tower! The cozy Williamsburg bar has quickly become a fan favorite with its 360-degree views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan waterfronts. Its swanky décor is welcoming, colorful and warm. The comfy nooks within the otherwise airy space create the perfect conditions to sit back and enjoy a world-class drink, while enjoying a sunset or New York’s late-night charm.

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