Arguably the most famous city on the planet, New York City is the most populous city in the United States and sits at the heart of the biggest metropolitan area in the whole world. A major global power city and generally regarded as the cultural, commercial, financial, and media capital of the world, New York City covers an area of over 460 square miles and has a population of over 8.6 million people, with over 20 million living in the surrounding metro area. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.New York City
2.Elevation of New York City
3.Climate and Things to Do in New York City
New York City Elevation
- New York City, Photo: AntonioLopez/stock.adobe.com
- Elevation of New York City, Photo: Jin/stock.adobe.com
- Climate and Things to Do in New York City, Photo: annavalerievna1/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Mike Liu - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Randall's Island Park in New York City
Technically actually comprising the two islands of Randall’s and Ward’s, the small body of water that separated the two was filled in the early 1960s. The island itself separates many different boroughs of New York, representing a green oasis on the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens.
The park itself covers most of the island and has become one of the city’s main recreation hubs. It has seen a remarkable transformation in recent years, owing largely to the vision and support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Seeking to restore and preserve open spaces, the island has benefited from his historic citywide commitment. The island is now home to several brand-new sports facilities, such as a golf course, a 20-court tennis center, and an IAAF certified track and field facility in the Icahn Stadium, in addition to over 9 acres of restored wetlands, more than 60 playing fields, and miles of waterfront bike and pedestrian pathways.
As well as being restored to its natural beauty, the island is also enjoying a cultural revival, having hosted major events such as Lollapalooza, Cirque du Soleil, and the Electric Zoo, to name a few. This is building upon the history of the park, which until not that long ago had fallen into serious disrepair. Back in its heyday, it was a stage for greats like Duke Ellington and Jimi Hendrix, and the island hopes to lay claim to this prestige once again; it seems to be succeeding. It now has two music festivals of its very own, the Governors Ball and the Panorama Music Festival.
The island has a rich history. Small populations have lived there since as early as the 17th century. It was developed first by the Ward brothers, who built a cotton mill and the first bridge across the East River in 1807. However, this was short lived and the bridge was destroyed by a storm in 1821. The island remained largely abandoned until 1840, when it was sold to the city itself. From the mid-19th into the early 20th century, the island was an out-of-the-way location used to house various social facilities, an existence that sounds like something ripped straight out of a Batman comic. It was home to an orphanage, a burial ground for the poor, an “idiot” asylum, a rest home for Civil War veterans, a reform school for juvenile delinquents, another insane asylum, and a psychiatric center, among other things.
The vision to rebrand and turn the island into something a little more appealing began in 1916, but didn’t officially get under way until 1930. Randall’s Island Park is overseen by the Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA), a public-private partnership founded in 1992. They work with the local community and the city itself to provide sports venues, cultural events, and environmental exploration.
The island can now happily be described as a place of beauty and boasts two large natural environments in the salt marsh and the freshwater wetland. This is in addition to the large green spaces, many bustling public parks, and popular sports amenities. It’s a pretty spot with a rich but gritty history and definitely a place to check out on any visit to the Big Apple.
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Attraction Spotlight: Grand Central Terminal
Located in Manhattan, NYC, Grand Central Terminal is a 48-acre commuter railroad terminal in the city’s Midtown neighborhood, home to 44 platforms, the most of any railroad station in the world. Three separate train stations have stood at the site of Grand Central Terminal since the late 19th century. In October 1871, the original Grand Central Depot was opened, intending to bring the trains of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the New York and New Haven Railroad, and the New York and Harlem Railroad to one central location.
In 1899 and 1900, the building was renovated extensively and renamed Grand Central Station, given a new facade and increased in size from three to six stories. A fatal train collision in 1902 prompted the city’s switch from steam to electric trains, however, and as a result, the Grand Central Station building was demolished and replaced by the current Grand Central Terminal.
Between 1903 and 1913, the building was torn down in sections, allowing stations to remain open incrementally during the transition. The large-scale design for the new Grand Central Terminal, a beaux arts-style building designed by the architectural firms of Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore, was intended to compete with its rival, Pennsylvania Station, which began construction in 1901. The final train left the old Grand Central Station facility on June 5, 1910, and the new terminal opened at midnight on February 2, 1913.
At its opening, Grand Central Terminal was more than twice the size of Penn Station, placing an emphasis on its luxury features and friendly, accommodating environment for travelers of all ethnicities and social classes. The area around the terminal quickly became known as “Grand Central Zone,” featuring luxury hotels such as the Biltmore and Waldorf Astoria and inspiring construction of skyscrapers such as the Chrysler Building. A large art gallery occupied the building’s sixth floor from 1922 to 1958, and from 1939 to 1964, the CBS television network operated two studios out of the terminal. By 1947, nearly 40% of the United States’ population traveled through Grand Central Terminal annually, equivalent to 65 million riders.
With the advent of the interstate highway system and increasing air travel, American railroads fell into decline in the mid-20th century, and in 1964, Penn Station was demolished to make way for the Madison Square Garden arena. The original design of Grand Central Terminal allowed for the possibility of building a skyscraper on top of its roof, resulting in several design propositions throughout the 1950s and 1960s for updates to the building that would have destroyed much of its original facade and interior. In 1963, the Pan Am Building, now known as the MetLife Building, was constructed to replace the terminal’s six-floor office building, and a plan by Marcel Breuer for a tower to be constructed over the terminal was unveiled in 1968. Six months prior, however, the terminal had been declared a city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the controversy over the proposed Breuer tower resulted in a historic Supreme Court case, which ruled in favor of the station’s preservation.
In 1988, Amtrak announced a move of all of its operations from Grand Central Terminal to the reconstructed Penn Station. Since 1991, the terminal has been the home of the Metro-North Railroad, a commuter railway connecting the city to New Jersey, Connecticut, and northern New York suburbs. Major renovations by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority restored the station to its original condition throughout the 1990s, including a full restoration of the main concourse’s ceiling. An ongoing MTA project will bring the Long Island Rail Road to the terminal via the East Side Access project.
Today, the terminal houses 44 platforms, all below ground level, although only 43 are in current use for passengers. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, hosting over 21 million annual visitors. The granite terminal is known for its ornate construction, often considered one of the most majestic examples of 20th-century architecture. Its large main concourse is its most iconic site, featuring a four-faced brass clock designed by Henry Edward Bedford and an elaborate ceiling with astronomical designs. The original display board near Track 36, a Solari flip-panel board, has been replaced by a large electromechanical display. For safety reasons, all trains at the terminal depart one minute after their posted departure time, encouraging rushing passengers to slow down to avoid accidents. A northern entrance to the station, Grand Central North, was opened in 1999.
Sixty shops and 35 restaurants are housed inside Grand Central Station, including the Oyster Bar, the terminal’s oldest business. A dining concourse is located below the main concourse, and a European-style food court known as Grand Central Market is located on the Concourse’s east side. Vanderbilt Hall, once the terminal’s main waiting room, is now used for special events, and the Campbell Apartment, the former office space of John W. Campbell, has been converted into a restored cocktail lounge. A branch of the New York Transit Museum is also located inside the terminal. Outside the station, a 14-foot clock contains the world’s largest Tiffany glass structure, and a series of sculptures by French artist Jules-Félix Coutan depict the Roman gods Hercules, Mercury, and Minerva.
Audio tours presented in conjunction with Orpheo USA are available 7 days a week, providing visitors with a state-of-the-art headset and terminal map. Listeners may choose between the local and express tours, highlighting the terminal’s architecture and history. There are also 75-minute docent-led tours available. The terminal is the site of many major events throughout the year, including an annual Holiday Train Show presented by the New York Transit Museum.
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, Phone: 212-340-2583
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Attraction Spotlight: New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804, making it New York’s first museum. The eleven founding members were inspired to create the society and museum as a means of preserving the history of the American Revolution. The museum’s collection has since expanded into the 21st century, still with the aim or preserving the integrity of the stories that make up America. In addition to the Historical Society Museum, the non-profit organization manages the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, the DiMenna Children's History Museum, and the Center for Women’s History.
Museum collections include historical artifacts linked to integral moments of American history. The collection of over 300 pieces includes a Civil War lottery draft wheel from 1863, a wooden keg from the celebration that opened the Erie Canal to the Atlantic Ocean, and souvenirs from every presidential inauguration, from George Washington onward. Special American history collections include over 3,000 games and toys from the 19th century, a collection of 9/11 memorabilia, relics and historical evidence, and home and trade tools, a military, fire and police collection, and a transportation collection which includes Betsey, one of the last remaining New York City Checker Cabs.
A decorative arts collection includes over 500 pieces of American furniture, dating back to the 1700’s. The museum houses over 2,000 textiles, ranging from American flags and patriotic banners to political handkerchiefs. The ceramics and glass collection focuses on domestic glassware from the 18th century through the present day, while a specialized Tiffany lamps collection includes 132 lamps, drawings and glass sheets donated by collector Egon Neustadt in the 1980’s. The silver and jewelry collection is among the finest in the United States. Over 3,000 silver objects include a Tiffany and Company silver conductor’s handle from the first New York City subway train, whose maiden voyage was in 1904.
Over 2,500 American paintings include one of America’s most significant collections of Hudson River landscape school works, and one of the best-known collections of American portraiture. Over 8,000 drawings represent mainly the 18th and 19th century. Noted works include ten of John Singer Sargent’s earliest portraits on paper, watercolors by John James Audubon, and 130 Civil War “eyewitness” sketches by documentary sketch artists. Over 800 sculptural works date back to the colonial era and include Gutzon Borglum's Abraham Lincoln, eventually produced on a larger scale at the Mount Rushmore Monument.
The museum’s new Center for Women’s History has a special focus on the oft-overlooked historical contributions of women. The center offers permanent exhibits on women’s suffrage and women’s voices, as well as temporary exhibits, educational programming and scholarly initiatives.
The museum’s early 20th century building is itself a work of art. Among the last of the Beaux Arts masterpieces to be constructed in America, it was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966. Highlights of the construction include two stained glass windows in the second floor library, by the Groham Manufacturing Company and noted American craftswoman Mary Elizabth Tillinghast (1845-1912).
History: New Yorker John Pintard (1759-1844) was the primary leader in the efforts to convene the eleven prominent New Yorkers who drafted the constitution of the New-York Historical Society in 1804. By 1813 the museum had printed its first catalogue of an already growing collection of historical American documents, artwork and artifacts. After moving frequently throughout the 1800’s, construction began on its present home in 1902.
The Museum and Library’s historic Roman Eclectic granite building was completed in 1908 by York & Sawyer, with a 1938 addition by the architectural firm Walker & Gillette. The building received an extensive 2011 renovation, which opened more rooms, adding the children’s museum and Center for Women’s History.
Public access to the collections was limited in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s due to the museum’s struggle with financial debt. By 1988, it looked like the museum would need to cease operations entirely; in addition, many items in storage were found to be deteriorating. Under the direction of Betsy Gotbaum in the 1990’s, the museum experienced a revival. Additional city grants, successful private fundraising, and expansion of its revenue-generating programming have stabilized the institution.
Ongoing Programs and Education: A wide array of educational programming at the Historical Society includes family programs and both scholarly and public programs. Ongoing family programs include a Sunday story time, Tuesday morning’s Little New Yorkers, and the History Detective Briefcase, which takes place each Saturday and Sunday. Public programs include a Distinguished Speaker Series, which has invited some of the nation’s top writers, historians and philosophers.
170 Central Park West New York, NY 10024, Phone: 212-873-3400
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