Civic by Sunrise

You’ve probably driven through it on your way to Ground Zero; skimmed the surface of it while making your way on to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, or then rushed past it in your hurry to snag a good deal at J&R. Bounded by Broadway on its west, Park Row and Centre Street on its east, Chinatown to its north and the Financial District to its south, lies a compact, often overlooked, and highly underrated section of Lower Manhattan – Civic Center!

A good place to start your walk around Civic Center is City Hall Park, and probably the best time of day to do so is the crack of dawn…


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The Jewel in the Subway Crown

The New York City Subway isn’t quite as old as London’s Tube. In fact, it isn’t even the oldest in the Americas – that distinction goes to Boston. But when it did open, over a century ago, it was a momentous occasion. One that would change the course of the city’s development, and give it the very pulse it’s known for today. The year was 1904. The 27th of October was the chosen date, and the station where it all began – City Hall, in lower Manhattan.

On the last weekend of February, I had the rare privilege to tour City Hall Station – the very birthplace of New York’s Subway – a station that has been lying abandoned since 1945. Here are a few chosen images and accompanying descriptions from my visit.


We gather at the front end of the downtown platforms at Brooklyn Bridge Station. After checking in, we file into the first car of a terminating #6 train, which has just offloaded the last of its fare-paying passengers. Traveling some 600-feet around a sharp curve, we alight minutes later by the grand entrance that leads to the mezzanine level of City Hall Station.


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The Boatel at Marina 59

The platform at Broad Channel is packed to the rafters as our train pulls in – rather unusual for a Sunday morning, this far out in Queens! The doors open and every single one of our fellow passengers – with surfboards, picnic hampers and folding chairs in tow – alight to join the throngs. Clearly, we didn’t get the memo this morning. Either that, or things have changed considerably since my last visit to the Rockaways!

We alight two stations later at Beach 60th St., and the platform there is as desolate as can be. With only a smattering of passengers on board, the A train trundles off in the direction of Far Rockaway, while we make our way a couple of blocks north to the Boatel at Marina 59. Having figured out how to get into the gated compound, we are motioned in the direction of ‘A dock’.


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Biking through the South Bronx, one green patch at a time!

Chances are, you’ve passed right over it, in your car or in a bus, whizzing along the Bruckner or the Major Deegan, as you make your way into or out of the city. Or if you’re a baseball fan, you’ve probably ridden the #4 train to watch a game at Yankee Stadium. But there’s a lot more to the South Bronx than the Yankees, or views of industrial blight afforded by the many expressways that criss cross it. Just east of the Bruckner, in fact, a little known resurgence is taking place along the Bronx River. I set out one morning to investigate for myself.

The Hunts Point section of the South Bronx lies approximately 5 miles north of Astoria, a 25-minute bike ride for me via the Triborough / RFK bridge. At the southern end of Tiffany St., about a mile off the gritty Bruckner Blvd, past old warehouses and truck repair shops, sits an 11-acre patch of green by the name of Barretto Point Park.


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Before the Village awakes

”This section of Manhattan, owing to its peculiar street system . . . preserves to this day the traditions, habits and quaintness of old New York” – Real Estate Record & Guide of 1915.

Almost a century since the guide was published, little has changed in the West Village. Having spent my first year (in NYC) there, and looking back on 7 years, 5 apartments and 3 boroughs, it continues to be my favourite neighbourhood in the city!

A few weekends ago, a friend and I decided to meet at the crack of dawn and photograph the streets and buildings of this wonderfully quaint hood. For a change, I’m going to let the photographs do the talking, or most of it at least 🙂

Our walk begins in Washington Square Park, considered by many to be the heart of the Greenwich Village. On the park’s south side, the tower of the Judson Memorial Church rises high enough to pick up the first few rays..


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The Heights of Manhattan

The name Manhattan is a Native American word that translates to ‘island of many hills’. To most visitors though, and to those few residents who’ve never had opportunity to use the GW bridge, the island of Manhattan is perceived as flat! No fault of theirs really – the city’s urban development in the early 19th-century ensured that much of the island’s topographical variations were evened out.

Washington Heights and Inwood, the northernmost neighbourhoods on the island, are remnants of that undulation, and little known ones at that. A stroll or bike ride through them reveals not only what the island would have looked like pre-development, but also many a hidden treasure. Towards the end of summer this year, I set out to find out just that!

11 miles after leaving my house on a warm Sunday morning, I made my first stop at 156th & Broadway. There, occupying a full city block sits Audobon Terrace, a complex of eight early 20th-century Beaux Arts buildings, named after John James Audobon, a French-American ornithologist, on who’s land the structures stand.


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Where aviators soared high

The New York metro area is served by no less than 3 major airports, together contributing a staggering 3300 flights to its airspace, each day! While Newark is in neighbouring New Jersey, both LaGuardia and JFK are located in the city’s largest borough, Queens. But little known to the hundreds of thousands of daily fliers, and to a majority of New Yorkers, is the fact that the city’s first airport was in fact in Brooklyn!

In the days when flights were few and far between, when passengers walked freely onto the tarmac to board their planes, and when security procedures –  as we know them today – were non existent, ‘Building 1’ was sufficient enough to house the passenger terminal, airline offices and air traffic control for Floyd Bennett Field!


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Half a Century and change!

The 19th day of October ’08 marked a full year since I began partaking in cycling tours across NYC. Around the same time last year, I did my first ever 25 mile (40 km) ride – the Tour De Bronx. Last Sunday, I rode the Bronx tour again and with it culminated a year full of tours for me.

The Five Borough ride in May, with its 42 grueling miles (67 km), had been precedent setting – for me – at the very least. That was followed by the Tour De Brooklyn (18 miles – bah!) and Tour De Queens (a tad more at 20 but with unforgiving heat for company!). And then, the weekend before I left for India, came the big one – the NYC Century! The mileage options were plentiful with 100 obviously being the ultimate. I chose the more conservative 55, although, that in itself was going to be quite a big step up for me!

And so it came to be.. the early morning of Sunday, September the 7th. The location: North end of Central Park. The start time: 7:15 am.

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To the High Bridge and beyond..

Summer Streets ’08 – the Bloomberg administration’s answer to Albany’s ineptitude at passing the Congestion Pricing Bill! Seven miles of prime Manhattan roadway, off limits to automobiles, for three consecutive Saturdays! The results, overwhelming! The highlight for me, being able to bike up the ramp leading to Grand Central station – a road which is out of bounds for pedestrians and bikers on every other day!

That was Saturday # 2 of the city’s experimental car-free-streets initiative but I was headed much further north on that particular day – to the very northern tip of Manhattan. The plan was to ride north along the Harlem River on Manhattan’s east side, reach the tip and then ride down along the Hudson River on the island’s west side.

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