Thursday, April 23, 2020

Flushing Meadows Park and the Museums of Queens

Many people visit New York City, and never leave the island of Manhattan, except when they fly into or out of one of our airports. That is a shame. The four other boroughs of the city offer a treasure trove of museums and galleries to enjoy. One great place to visit is Flushing Meadows - Corona Park in Queens.

Flushing Meadows is near the eastern border of Queens, and it takes about half-an-hour to get there from mid-town. It is a trip worth taking. The park was created in the early 1930’s to provide Queens with a park to rival Central Park, and it is a beautiful place. It is most famous for hosting two world’s fairs, in 1939-40 and in 1964-65. Today it is home to the USTA National Tennis Center, home to the U.S. Open, a small zoo, a botanical garden, and to two museums, both with ties to those world’s Fairs.

The Unisphere

The Unisphere and the NY State Pavilion

The Queens Museum is an art museum that occupies the New York City Pavilion, built for the 1939 fair. From 1946-1950, this building was the home of the United Nations. It was renovated for the 64 fair, and then converted into an art museum after the fair closed. As part of that renovation, a three-dimensional panorama of New York City. The model covers 867 m2, and includes architectural models of almost every building in the city.The models are updated regularly, although there are some exceptions, for example, the Twin Towers are still on the model, because the museum is waiting for construction to be finished before they redo the World Trade Center. You walk around the edge of the panorama on a ramp that take you up to the second floor.

The Southern tip of Manhattan

Queens and Manhattan

Manhattan at night

When you leave the panorama, you will find a gallery of memorabilia from both world’s fairs. On display are hundreds of souvenirs that were sold at the time. Plates, beer staines, posters, and models and statuettes are some of the items on display. The second floor also houses the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, and a gallery for the museums rotating exhibition. Unfortunately, my visit came as the they were in the process of changing its exhibitions. I was planning to return before writing this piece, as there were four exhibits scheduled to open on April 4th. I will get back there when the city reopens.

Model from the the top of the USSR pavilion - 1939 Fair

Take a short walk over the Grand Central Parkway, and you will arrive at the park’s other museum, the New York Hall of Science. It was built in 1964 as part of the world’s fair. The Hall of Science was one of the first “hands-on” museums in the world. It may be best known to New Yorkers for its Rocket Park. In 1964, NASA donated life-sized replicas of its most up-to-date equipment, including a Gemini-Titan rocket, a Mercury Atlas rocket and a Saturn V engine. Inside the museum offers many opportunities to explore science, mostly aimed a children. There are experiments with light, sound, and forces that visitors can carry out.

Sun dial

Evolution from dinosaur to bird

Mercury Capsule

Probability lab

There are also special exhibits. One was an interactive, computer generated, animated environment called Connected Worlds.Visitors can create animals and plants, and control the flow of water. They can observe how the changes they make affect the world they have created. There was also an exhibit called Survival. Here visitors are presented with real world situations, like being lost in the woods, or on a boat the capsizes. The exhibit offers suggestions on how to survive if these events occur.

Connected Worlds

Creating Life at Connected Worlds

Inside the Great Hall

Basic first Aid - Survival

Some take the 7-train out to Queens and spend a day in the park. Enjoy the scenery, see some great art, and explore the world of science.

Nuts and Bolts:

The Queens Museum: Admission - Adults $8/ Seniors $4/ children under 18 and college students free.

The NY Hall of Science: Admission - Adults $16 (combo $20)/ Children, students and seniors $13 (combo $15). The combo gives one add-on, such as a 3-D movie or special exhibit.

You can also buy and all-inclusive ticket for $30 (children and seniors $25) that give entry to all exhibits and films.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Delaware and Ulster Railroad in Arkville NY

The Vista Dome Car

There are many fun ways to spend a day in the country. One that I enjoy is finding a “Heritage Railway” for a ride. A heritage railway uses classic cars and engines to take passengers on a trip through the countryside. On a trip to the western Catskills last fall I found the Delaware and Ulster Railroad.

The Delaware and Ulster Railroad (DURR) operates out of the town of Arkville NY. Its track is part of a rail line that has its roots in the 1860’s. In 1868 Thomas Cornell, founder of the Cornell Steamboat Company chartered the Roundout and Qswego Railroad to bring supplies and goods from towns in Central and Western New York to his pier in Kingston, along the Hudson River. While he never completed his plans to build all the way to Lake Erie, his railway began to carry passengers for the nascent summer holiday businesses in the Catskill Mountains. The passenger and freight service continued through several incarnations until passenger service ended in 1954. Conrail continued to operate freight service along the line until 1976. In 1980 the Catskill Revitalization Corp. acquired the right-of-way, and the DURR began operations in 1983.

Thomas Cornell by Mathew Brady / Public domain via wikicommons

The DURR operates the Rip Van Winkle Flyer, a five-car train that includes a Vista Dome car (built in 1948), a tavern lounge car (1948), an observation car (1950), and a baggage/generator car. It offers lunch and dinner reservations, using the vista dome car as its dining car. The lounge car is beautiful, with banquettes and tables. The observation car has had all of its original seating removed, and has replaced it with tables and folding chairs.

Vista Dome Dining Car

Tavern Lounge

Observation Car

The DURR’s terminal in Arkville is the Arkville Depot. I strongly suggest arriving early for your trip, as the depot has many excellent displays covering the history of train travel through the Catskills. I also suggest bringing some refreshments, as the DURR does not sell food or drink on the trip, unless you have reserved a meal in the vista dome car.

The main ride offered by the DURR is a 24-mile round trip between Arkville and Roxbury. It is a 2.5-hour ride that follows the East Branch of the Delaware River through beautiful riverbanks, lakes and marshes. One thing that I really enjoyed is that the ride is done at fairly slow speed (about 10-15 mph) so there is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as it rolls by.

Trainspotters followed us on the ride

The engine came round to rear of the train for the return trip

If you enjoy classic trains, or just a day in the country, The Delaware and Ulster Railroad is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Nuts and Bolts:
Tickets: Adults $18/ Seniors $15/ Children $12

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The New Museum presents Contemporary Art

NOTE: Some of the pictures in this blog represent violent acts.

 Life in the age of COVID continues, and so does our desire to find ways to explore the world beyond the walls of our apartments and houses. So I continue with my exploration of smaller museums in New York City. For this article, I visited the New Museum in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

There are many galleries in New York that are dedicated to contemporary art, but none are as large as The New Museum on the Bowery. The New Museum was founded in 1977 with the mission of introducing new art and new ideas, by artists who have not yet received significant exposure or recognition. It opened in The New School for Social Justice, in Greenwich Village, but quickly outgrew it space there. It has moved several times until, in 2007, it opened its own building, a beautiful 7 floor, 58,700 sq.ft. space. On my visit, their exhibit space was dedicated to two artists who present very different views of painting styles.

The museum has brought together over sixty paintings by Peter Saul (b. 1934), creating the first comprehensive show of his work in New York. Saul was born in San Francisco and studied at the California School of Fine Arts. His early work was influenced by the intersection of comics, cartoons and history. It incorporated icons of pop culture, such as Micky Mouse, into scenes that reflected a critique of that culture and world politics. His work evolved , taking on the style of west coast underground comics, and at the same time, his incorporation of political commentary intensified. His later works took on the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and more recently, The wars in the Middle East and Donald Trump. Saul’s paintings pull no punches, and while their style may mimic comic books, the images reflect what he sees as the violence of society.

The Sick Room

The crucifixion of Angela Davis

Columbus Discovers America

Stalin and Mao

The rest of the exhibit space is given to the work of Jordan Casteel (b. 1989). Casteel studied at the Lamar Dodd School of Art (Univ. of Ga) in Cortona Italy, and received an MFA from Yale. She paints large-scale portraits of friends, neighbors and more recently, students. Her work has explored themes of sexuality, family and street life. If her paintings look like snapshots, that is because her method is to photograph her subjects, and then use one of her pictures as the basis of her work. In my opinion, this method brings an immediacy and intimacy to the portraits.



The Bayfalls


The top floor of the museum is an event space, but it worth the time to visit because it also has a wrap-around balcony that offers a wonderful view of the rooftops of the Lower East Side, and beyond.

Nuts and Bolts:
Admission: Adults $18/ Seniors, visitors with disabilities $15/ Students $12