After fifteen months in Asia, I left Bangkok at 8:10 a.m. on Thursday morning headed first to Narita, then to O’Hare, and ultimately to New Your City. My journey ended 25 hours later when my American flight touched down at LaGuardia just after 9 p.m. local time.
The mid-40 degree temperature in NY was bracing but refreshing after the heat of SE Asia. My sister picked me up in her new Infiniti and we drove to her recently acquired condo on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (point A on map below). As usual, New York provided a sensual overload with the sounds, sights, and smells of a city that never shuts down.
On Saturday morning, we played the role of tourist with visits to lower Manhattan – Wall Street (B), the 9/11 Memorial (C), Union Square (D), Greenwich Village (E), and the High Line (F to G), before ending up at Penn Station/Madison Square Garden (H).
It has been years since I last visited New York’s financial district and the post 9-11 security is amazing. Clearly a highly symbolic target, the streets around the New York Stock Exchange are almost closed to traffic. The exchange itself is surrounded by bollards to keep vehicles from getting too close. Many street are blocked by retractable barriers that get opened only after each car or truck is individually screened. While understandable, it is nevertheless depressing to see this permanent, armed camp twelve years after the 9-11 attach by radical Islamists.
From Wall Street, we walked past Zuccotti Park, the makeshift home to the seriously misguided and deranged Occupy Wall Street crowd a couple of years back. A new sign has clearly been added to prohibit tents, sleeping bags, and camping on this private mall, something that I expect no one ever imagined necessary either when it was built in 1968 or renovated after the 9-11 attack in 2006.
We made our way to the still-unfinished 9-11 memorial. The memorial site occupies one-half of the original 16 acres of the World Trade Center complex. On the second half of the site, construction continues apace on the new One World Trade Center.
Open since September 11, 2011, the two one-acre pools built where the Twin Towers stood are the main attractions. Each pool is surrounded by bronze plates into which are inscribed the names of each of the 2,983 men, women and children who lost their lives during the terrorists attacks. Water falls 32 feet into each pool before descending into a center void. The waterfalls seem to pour more water into the pools then ultimately falls into the void, so there must be some unseen secondary drains in the pools.
After viewing the memorial, we took the subway to Union Square Park and then wandered through Greenwich Village. With a temperature in the mid 60s, it was very pleasant to stroll through the NYU neighborhood and then over to the West Village. For lunch, we stopped at John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street for one of their famous coal-fired, brick oven pies.
After lunch, we hiked toward the Hudson River to walk along the High Line, an elevated linear park built on a former New York Central rail spur called the West Side Line. The old rail line had been elevated 30 feet above street-level in the 1930s for safety reasons. By raising over 13 miles of track from Hell’s Kitchen through Chelsea and the Meatpacking District and into the West Village, over 100 rail crossings were eliminated from the streets. The elevated line ran down the center of the blocks, rather than over the nearby streets, and entered directly into the factories and warehouses in the borough’s industrial area.
With the growth of interstate trucking, freight traffic began to diminish in the 1950s, the southern section of the line was demolished in the 1960s, and the rest of the elevated rail line was abandoned in 1980. In 1999, neighborhood residents began to lobby for the preservation of the remaining part of the High Line and its reuse as public space. By late 2005, the city gained ownership of the property, the first phase of construction began early the next year, and the first section of the park opened in 2009.
Currently, the High Line park extends for one mile from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 30th Street. There are nine stairways access points, four of which have elevators for the disabled. Future plans call for the extension for another four-tenths of a mile over the West Side Rail Yards, which provide storage for the Long Island Rail Road trains on their way to and from Penn Station, to 34th Street.
New York International Auto Show
My visit to New York fortuitously overlapped with the NY Auto Show, and I spent several hours on Saturday wandering through the halls of the Javitz Center. Over 1,000 vehicles are displayed in the 900,000 square foot center, which is about 50% larger than Muang Thong Trani, home to the Bangkok Auto Show.
Among the highlights of the show is the new 2014 Corvette Stingray that looks fast even standing still. Chevrolet is also reintroducing the high-performance Z/28 version of the Camaro. The car is powered by a 7.0 liter, LS7 V8 engine, first used in the LS06 Corvette, that redlines at 7,000 rpm and produces 500 h.p. and 500 lb.-ft. of torque. Not to be outdone, Ford had the Shelby GT500 versions (both coupe and convertible) of the Mustang that were outfitted with a 5.8 liter V8 that produces 662 hp and 631 lb.-ft. of torque.
Cadillac showed it all new 2013 Cadillac ATS, the show’s North American Car of the Year, and the sleek new ELR, a plug-in hybrid coupe, built on GM’s Delta platform and powered by the same engine-generator system deployed on the Chevy Volt.
Nissan was displaying the new, handicapped accessible NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow that will be the exclusive new cab in New York City. While walking through Greenwich Village on Friday, we came across an old two-door, Studebaker cab — quite the difference! Nissan was also showing a NISMO version of the Juke while Infiniti was highlighting the new 2014 Q50.
A lot of vehicles, and not just small cars, were painted in light, pastel colors including the new Jeep Cherokee and the new Subaru XV Crosstrek. Audi, however, did not seem to get the message since nearly every one of its vehicles on display was white. Among the white vehicles, the half-million dollar Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé and a pair of Aston Martins were undoubtedly the nicest.
Concept vehicles are a major draw to any auto show and there were several intriguing concepts at the New York Show, including the Subaru WRX, the Toyota Corolla Furia, the Acura NSX, and the Lincoln MKC shown below.
The high-cost, high-performance, exotics are always crowd-pleasers. The Lamborghini, Lotus, McClaren, and Ferrari displays were jammed with show-goers.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.